Three goals in 15 blistering second-half minutes obliterated Arsenal as Chelsea were crowned Europa League champions in Baku. The 4-1 victory is coach Maurizio Sarri’s first trophy with the London club.
Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal
(Giroud, 49', Pedro 60', Hazard 65', 72' - Iwobi 69')
Eden Hazard has reaffirmed to the world - and particularly suitors Real Madrid - that he stands among the best forwards on the planet after a world-class display for Chelsea in the Europa League final.
The Belgian scored twice, both at decisive stages in the contest, to kill Arsenal hopes and hand Chelsea their second Europa League victory in six years. His first was an ice-cool penalty which fooled Petr Cech in the keeper's final match for Arsenal, while his second immediately quashed the Gunners' hopes of a comeback with the score standing at 3-1.
Hazard could now bow out on a high with speculation that the 28-year-old is hustling for a move to La Liga giants Real Madrid. While Hazard's departure hasn't yet been officially announced, the player all but confirmed it with his comments after the final whistle.
"I think it's a goodbye," he said. "But in football you never know.
"My dream was to play in the Premier League and I did this for seven years for one of the biggest clubs in the world. So now maybe it's time for a new challenge,"
Meanwhile, Hazard's current coach, Maurizo Sarri, finished his first season in charge of the Blues with a trophy, following a tumultuous 12 months which has seen the Italian's future constantly questioned.
The match didn't start as smoothly as the scoreline suggests for the Blues, however, as Arsenal certainly started the more lively of the two finalists. But in the final minutes of the opening half, Emerson and Olivier Giroud both forced Cech into saves to end the first period on a high.
And they continued their new-found dominance after the break as Arsenal failed to refind their feet.
On 49 minutes, French striker Giroud did brilliantly to stoop in front of Laurent Koscielny and direct an expert header into the bottom corner of Cech's goal. The former Gunner had no qualms celebrating against his old club as he was mobbed by teammates.
Just 10 minutes later it was 2-0 after Hazard dazzled his way inside the box, cutting inside and squaring for Pedro to send a scuffed shot into the net. And on 64 minutes, Chelsea had a penalty when Ainsley Maitland-Niles, the only Englishman to start the match, bundled Giroud over in the box.
Hazard did the rest to make it 3-0.
Arsenal did threaten to mount a comeback on 69 minutes when Alex Iwobi hit an unstoppable belter past Kepa Arrizabalaga from the edge of the box. But Hazard popped up again to deny the Gunners with a well-taken volley from a Pedro assist.
The match finished 4-1 to the Blues, though Sarri's future at the club remains uncertain after failing to win over the fans, and reportedly the players, too.
For Arsenal, they will have to make do with another season in the Europa League thanks to their fifth-place finish in England's top flight. Missing out on the Champions League for the third season in a row is a huge blow for the Gunners and a less than ideal start to Unai Emery's reign as coach.
+++ Scroll down to read through the action as it happened +++
FULL TIME - It's all over as Chelsea are crowned Europa League champions in Baku. It's been a long hard slog for Sarri's men at times this season, but what a way to finish. The win means, of course, that Arsenal will not be playing Champions League football next season. What a performance from the Blues and, Hazard in particular.
89' - Hazard leaves the pitch to raucous applause and is replaced by Zappacosta. If this is his final game for Chelsea, it's some way to bow out. A magnificent performance, as always, from Chelsea's star man.
84' - Arsenal should have drawn one back but the chance, unfortunately, falls to Maitland-Niles. The young Englishman latches onto a beautifully weighted Aubameyang pass and has plenty of time to lift his head and place the ball beyond Kepa. He hesitates, however, and curls his shot wide of the far post. A gilt-edged chance. If only Auba had been on the other end of that pass.
80' - Chelsea players are queuing up for a shot at goal now as Arsenal begin to fall to pieces. Pedro slips a slide rule pass into captain Azpilicueta and the Spaniard has room to cross. He isn't shut down though and advances into the Arsenal area before unleashing a fierce drive across Cech. It's heading towards the far corner but Cech parries. It would take a miracle for Arsenal to take this to extra time.
72' GOAL! In answer to that last question, no we're not. Chelsea immediately crush Gunners fans' hopes with a goal as brilliant as it was simple. A quick one two between Hazard and Pedro after the restart and it's looking like game over again. Hazard collects on the edge of the area, knocks it wide to Pedro and is first to the ball when it's dinked straight back across goal. He volleys home with ease and celebrates with the look of a man who knows he could bow out on a high if this does transpire to be his final game in Blue.
69' - GOAL! Surely not? Arsenal pull one back and it's an absolute peach from substitute Alex Iwobi. A corner is cleared and it's bobbling just right in the Nigerian's direction on the edge of the area. He sends a howitzer into the far corner of Kepa's goal. Could we be about to see another stunning European comeback this season?
65' GOAL! Hazard rolls it into the bottom corner with typical nonchalance, sending Cech the wrong way. This is turning into a rout.
64' - Penalty to Chelsea! Some neat footwork from Pedro bamboozles several Arsenal defenders on the edge of the area before the Spaniard picks out a Giroud surge into the box. He's bundled over clumsily by Maitland-Niles, who has no business challenging like that from behind. Stonewall.
60' - GOAL! Pedro doubles Chelsea's lead and it's a long way back for Arsenal now. Kovacic spins away from his marker in midfield and releases Hazard down the left. The Belgian cuts inside and squares it to Pedro, who is lying in wait on the penalty spot. The Spaniard scuffs his shot slightly, but it's well directed and beats Cech with ease. Lovely move by Chelsea.
56' - Arsenal almost hit back Torreitra
49' - GOAL! And what a goal it is. Emerson swings a low cross into the Arsenal area and Giroud does brilliantly. The Frenchman gets in front of his marker and stoops to connect with his head. He gets there a fraction before Koscielny's foot and directs a low header into the bottom corer of Cech's goal. The former Arsenal man has no time for courtesy, this is a final after all, and celebrates wildly.
47' - A positive start from Chelsea as Hazard skips past Xhaka in midfield before sliding a neat ball to Giroud on the edge of the Arsenal box. The Frenchman gets a shot away but it's blocked by Koscielny.
The second half gets underway as Chelsea take kick off.
HALF TIME - Things all square at the break as neither side can provide a finishing touch. Arsenal certainly started the brighter of the sides but Chelsea grew into the match and would have scored were it not for some smart saves from Petr Cech.
39' - Chance of the match so far and it's for Chelsea. Olivier Giroud should have given the Blues the lead after being slotted through on goal by Hazard. He connects well with his shot and keeps it low but Cech, with outstretched fingertips, just manages to get to it and push it wide for a corner. Chelsea almost made Arsenal pay there.
36' - Here come Chelsea again and it's Emerson with another shooting effort. The Brazilian wingback unleashes a powerful strike from just inside the Arsenal area which has Cech reeling. The block is a good one though and he gratefully gathers the parry.
31' - Arsenal back on top again as Azpilicueta comes to the rescue once more. The Spaniard closes down Kolasinac just in time and blocks a fierce shot to send it out for a corner. It also comes to nothing.
29' - Chelsea finally get forward and create a first shooting chance, Emerson picks up a loose ball on the corner of Arsenal's box and hits a low drive towards goal. Sokratis blocks and Chelsea win a corner. It comes to nothing.
26' - Arsenal go close. Maitland-Niles releases Aubameyang with a searching ball down the right wing. The striker beats his man and sends a floating cross across Kepa's goal. It fails to reach Lacazette however, as Azpilicueta just gets a head to it.
17' - Arsenal denied a penalty! Kepa brings down Lacazette in the box after the Frenchman marginally beats him to a loose ball on the six-yard line. No VAR required for the ref to make his decision but television replays suggest he made the wrong call. Arsenal should have been given a golden chance from 11 meters.
08'- Chelsea really struggling to get a foothold in the game as the Arsenal dominance continues. Unai Emery's team is really knocking the ball around with confidence in these opening ten minutes.
03' - Arsenal start the morn dominant of the two teams. Some tidy possession in midfield keeping Chelsea on the back foot in their half.
KICK OFF - Peeeep! Things get underway in Baku.
The teams are in...and with it, the realization that the "All English Final" tag is built on weak foundations. Just one Englishman makes either lineup.
This is how Chelsea look.
And here is how Arsenal lineup.
Introduction - Here we go, then. The first of two all-English European finals kicks off on with a battle between London-based Premier League rivals Chelsea and Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League. The build-up to the game has been plagued by complaints over the suitability of host city, Baku, and ticket allocation, with only 6000 entries awarded to each set of supporters. On top of that, Arsenal's Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan has not traveled to the game owing to concerns for his safety. Tensions are high, politically speaking, between Armenia and host nation Azerbaijan, and he did not feel comfortable entering the country.
Those fans lucky enough to be making the near 10,000-kilometer round trip may question why it was necessary - Stamford Bridge and the Emirates Stadium are less than 12km apart - but hopefully that won't detract from what promises to be a cracking game of football.
A win for Arsenal would mean qualification for next season's Champions League, with the club having failed to qualify through league position. A win for the Blues would help ease tension on beleaguered coach Maurizio Sarri's shoulders. So, plenty at stake for both sides. Enjoy!