A rampant second-half led by Eden Hazard’s brace helped Chelsea to a 4-1 victory over Arsenal as the Blues claimed their second Europa League title in club history.
After a first-half that was balanced and devoid of real intrigue, the Belgian led the charge by netting twice and assisting on Pedro’s strike as Chelsea imposed their will on an Arsenal side that shrunk after Olivier Giroud’s opener just after the restart.
It means a European trophy for Maurizio Sarri in what could be his lone season with the Blues, as rumours continue to circulate he is heading back to Italy to take charge of Juventus.
The first chance of the night fell to Arsenal when Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ cross was poorly dealt with by Kepa Arrizabalaga. It eventually fell to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang outside the penalty area, but his rushed effort whistled wide.
Controversy arose in the 18th minute when Alexandre Lacazette rounded Kepa and fell to ground after some slight contact but, referee Gianluca Rocchi wasn’t having any of it.
Arsenal continued to look like the more settled of the two outfits and nearly opened the scoring in the 28th minute. Granit Xhaka unleashed a trademark rocket from distance that skimmed the top of the crossbar, much to the relief of Chelsea.
The Blues finally responded with the first shot on goal of the evening after 34 minutes via Emerson Palmieri. The Italian international ran on to a Hazard through ball, but Petr Cech easily punched it away.
Chelsea managed another shot after some great work from Hazard and Jorginho eventually reached the feet of Giroud, but once again Cech dealt with the strike to keep the match at 0-0 heading into half-time.
The end of the opening half carried over to the second, and it was Chelsea who finally opened the scoring.
Emerson fired in a great cross that found the head of a diving Giroud, and the former Arsenal man’s 11th strike in the Europa League this season breathed some much needed life into the contest.
With momentum clearly on their side, Chelsea stamped their authority by making it 2-0 in the 59th minute. From the left, Hazard slipped in a great low pass for Pedro, and the Spaniard made no mistake in sending his first-time effort into the far bottom corner.
Arsenal were teetering on the edge of disaster, and it was confirmed in the 64th minute. Maintland-Niles clumsily knocked over Giroud in the box an Rocchi had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Hazard stepped up and calmly slotted home to make it 3-0, and Arsenal’s despair was captured on the face of Lucas Torreira who left the pitch in tears, replaced by Alex Iwobi.
It proved an inspirational move as the Nigerian collected a loose ball from an Arsenal corner and unleashed a laser with the outside of his boot from 22 yards out that landed in the far corner to give the Gunners a glimmer of hope.
That hope lasted all of three minutes as Hazard – in what could be his final match for Chelsea ahead of a reported move to Real Madrid – played a lovely one-two with Giroud. The Frenchman’s lob was collected by the Belgian, who calmly fired home to leave no doubt as to who would take home the trophy.
The two sides exchanged chances in the closing stages of the contest, but it made no difference as Chelsea ran out deserved winners to claim the 2018/2019 Europa League – their first since the 2012/13 campaign.