They never ran out of gas, but Eintracht Frankfurt finally reached the end of the road in London on Thursday night. The German side came so close to the Europa League final, but finally fell to Chelsea on penalties.
Chelsea 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt (Aggregate score 2-2 — Chelsea win 4-3 on penalties)
(Loftus Cheek 28'; Jovic 49')
There have been several moments in Eintracht Frankfurt's scintillating Europa League season when their race looked run, but the Eagles never relented.
Even as they bowed out of the Europa League at Stamford Bridge in front of their noisy, numerous traveling fans, Adi Hütter's men could hold their heads up high after taking their Premier League opponents to the wire.
Eventually, it was Eden Hazard who struck the killer blow, burying Chelsea's fifth penalty after the exceptional Martin Hinteregger and substitute Goncalo Paciencia had seen their spotkicks saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga, a goalkeeper who cost more than Frankfurt's eleven.
The Bundesliga outfit came into the game in something of a rut having lost 6-1 to Bayer Leverkusen and failed to win a match since knocking out Benfica in the quarterfinals on April 18. Danny da Costa tested Kepa with a stinging volley in an even opening before Hazard held off David Abraham's challenge and set Ruben Loftus-Cheek free in the inside left channel. The England midfielder kept his cool and curled a measured drive past Kevin Trapp.
A goal up and with home advantage, the home fans must've been confident but Frankfurt wouldn't give their opponents a moment's peace, snapping into tackles and disrupting the hosts' midfield linchpin Jorginho, and also Hazard, not always through legitimate means.
They finally got the reward their play and persistence deserved when Luka Jovic chested down a long ball and span past David Luiz to receive the return pass from Ante Rebic before slapping a decisive effort past Kepa.
Both sides had chances to win it, but it was substitute Sebastien Haller who came closest to settling the tie in open play. The French striker could only get his studs to an inviting low cross from Filip Kostic ten minutes into extra time but still saw the ball heading towards goal before Luiz recovered to hook off the line. Five minutes later Davide Zappacosta backpedaled furiously to nod another goalbound Haller effort clear.
The home fans thought they'd won it with five minutes remaining when Trapp fumbled a routine cross on to Azpilicueta and in, but the referee ruled that the Spaniard had fouled the keeper.
The German shot stopper then looked like being the hero after keeping out Azpilicueta's spot kick only for Hinteregger's and Pacienca's saved shots to break the hearts of the travelling fans. But, as supporters and players belted out the club anthem after the disappointment, it was clear to see that Frankfurt's resolve remains.
Chelsea's meeting with Arsenal in Baku, Azerbaijan on May 29 means that both men's European competitions will have all-English finals, after Spurs and Liverpool booked their places in the Champions League showpiece. That's the first time in history all four finalists have been from one country.
As it happened
So, so harsh on Frankfurt and there are tears tumbling in the stands. They really took that game to Chelsea and could easily have won it in extra time. It's particularly tough on Martin Hinteregger, who'd really thrown everything in to that game. Our match report will be along here any minute.
CHELSEA WIN 4-3 ON PENALTIES TO REACH THE EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL
Chelsea 4 – 3 Eintracht Frankfurt
It had to be him. Hazard steps up, sends Trapp the wrong way and books Chelsea a Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku.
Chelsea 3 – 3 Eintracht Frankfurt
Pacienca, brought on so late, sees Kepa guess right and save the penalty low down to his right. One to win in for Chelsea.
Chelsea 3 – 3 Eintracht Frankfurt
Luiz powers it home to level things up.
Chelsea 2 – 3 Eintracht Frankfurt
Oh no. Hinteregger, who has been heroic in defense, gambles on Kepa diving and loses. The Chelsea keeper stays put and save the penalty down the middle.
Chelsea 2 – 3 Eintracht Frankfurt
But the midfielder, after a little stutter in the run up, sends Trapp to ground and clips in.
Chelsea 1 – 3 Eintracht Frankfurt
De Guzman slams home to put the pressure on Jorginho.
Chelsea 1 – 2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Azpilicueta misses! Trapp goes low to his left and palms the Chelsea captain's penatly wide. Frankfurt lead.
Chelsea 1 – 2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Kepa goes the right way but can't keep out Jovic's effort.
Chelsea 1 – 1 Eintracht Frankfurt
Barkley the first man up for the hosts. He lashes it in to Trapp's left.
Chelsea 0 – 1 Eintracht Frankfurt
Haller steps up to take the first spot kick in front of the Frankfurt fans. He waits for Kepa to move and rolls it to the keepers right. Cool as you like.
END OF EXTRA TIME: The coaches have their notebooks out, the players are making their minds up. Who fancies it?
120+2 - Luiz just wins the ball ahead of Haller, who is flagged offside after the ball is recycled. Kepa lumps it forward once more and that's it PENALTIES.
120+1 - But the attack breaks down for the home side annd Haller does well to win a foul. One more minute and Frankfurt have a freekick.
120' - Seconds left before injury time, Chelsea push forward.
118' - Hütter removes Gacinovic for Pacienca. Penalties in mind?
116' - Goal disallowed! Trapp catches, and then fumbles, a routine floated cross under pressure from Azpilicueta. The referee seemed to initially give it and then change his mind. It was dodgy from Trapp but also probably a foul from the Spanish defender, who seemed to head the keeper's arm. Big scare.
114' - Another Hazard corner is scrambled clear by Frankfurt. Haller and Kostic try to make something of it but it breaks down. Chelsea in the ascendancy now and Zappacosta lets fly again, forcing Trapp to tip over the center of his bar.
111' - Save! Emerson flies down the left and fires one, which Trapp can only push back in to the danger area. The left back sniffs the rebound but Hinteregger throws himself in front of the ball to block. These two sides are running on empty, both men are on the floor being treated by the physios.
110' - Chelsea win a corner after Falette deflects Pedro's cross behind. Hazard's set piece flicks off a Frankfurt head and the visitors do well to work it away to Kostic. But he can't quite set the counter off.
108' - De Guzman slips the tireless da Costa away on the right but his cross slams against Luiz and out for a throw. Thevisitors have kept their foot on the gas.
106' - Quick turnaround and this is it. Can Frankfurt keep the momentum?
HALF TIME IN EXTRA TIME - Two HUGE chances for Frankfurt there. Haller should really have put the first one away but he was perhaps a bit ring rusty and only got studs to it. The second, just now, was a good effort but Zappacosta did brilliantly. There will be at least a couple of Germans in the final.
105+2 - Off the line, again! Haller rises highest to win a header from a corner but a backpedalling Zappacosta manages to head it clear when the net was set to bulge.
104' - Hazard, once again, wins a freekick for Chelsea - this time down the left - but Trapp is out to punch it away.
103' - Barkley spins his man and lets fly but it's wild and doesn't trouble Trapp.
100' - Chance! This is a masssive opportunity. Kostic, looking as fresh as a daisy, burns Azpilicueta down the left and whips a wonderful ball between keeper and defenders. Haller is there but somehow connects with his studs rather than his laces. That deceives Kepa, who is beaten, but Luiz appears from nowhere to hook it out just before it reached the line.
97' - A dreadful pass from Hasebe allows Chelsea, and Hazard to stream forward. He finds Higuain who fluffs his lines and hits the defender with his pass. That was 5 on 3 and it all came from a Frankfurt corner.
96' - Azpilicueta hooks one towards goal from Hazard's corner but can't keep it down. Higuain replaces Giroud.
94' - A couple of little moments from Barkley. First his fresh legs enable him to drive down the field and make serious ground before his pass to Pedro is intercepted, then he curls one just over from the edge of the box.
93' - Jovic dances his way in to the Chelsea box before his shot deflects behind off Azpilicueta's calf. De Guzman's corner is over the head of Falette and runs all the way out for a goal kick.
91' - Here we go. We're off again.
END OF NORMAL TIME: This is tense. Both sides have had their moments, both look capable of winning and both look leggy. We'll have another half hour then shall we?
90+6 - Hinteregger wins the header but can't get it on target.
90+5 - Azpilicueta handballs under absolutely no pressure and gives Frankfurt a final chance to load one in the box. Luiz clears it behind for a corner from which....
90+4 - Trapp comes to claim a corner and makes some territory with a long punt downfield. Frankfurt want the whistle.
90+3 - Haller, who hasn't played since the end of March, replaces Rebic. Will he get half an hour?
90' - Abraham takes a yellow for pulling back Hazard as the Belgian was streaking away. Then, seconds later, de Guzman scrapes his studs down the same man's calf and also goes in the book. There will be five minutes of added time.
89' - Kostic drives almost the length of the pitch before slipping it right to Jovic. But the Serbian can't get past Luiz.
88' - Barkley forces a ball through to Giroud who strikes low and hard from 25 yards. Trapp gets down well to his left to push it away and then gets straight back up to recover it.
86' - Boos from the home crowd as Loftus Cheek is replaced by Barkley. Sarri has a word with the goalscorer as he walks off.
85' - Azpilicueta makes another foul, this time as Rebic tries to spin behind him. He can't have more than one foul left before he's gone. de Guzman has a pop from the freekick but hits the wall.
82' - Now Eintracht put together a couple of counters. The seccond one ends when Azpilicueta dives in on Gacinovic and catches him on the knee, despite the ball being a couple of feet lower on the turf. Could that have been red? Hütter is furious that the referee didn't play advantage there. With some justification.
81' - The German side are really struggling to keep hold of the ball for any significant length at the minute. Are they going to run out of legs?
78' - Zappacosta almost makes an instant impact. Loftus Cheek and Hazard link up well before the Italian fullback tries his luck from 25 yards. It's a few feet off the ground, swerving and nearly deceives Trapp, who just adjusts in time to get something on it.
76' - The home side have had a decent last five minutes or so. The momentum of this one has changed almost as frequently as Sarri's cigarette replacement things.
73' - Now Christensen, who landed awkwardly in the first half, limps off. Zappacosta will replace him, with Azpilicueta moving inside presumably. Bit of a snub to club captain Gary Cahill, who criticized Sarri's treatment of him recently, but is a more natural replacement.
72' - Arsenal are 3-2 up in Valencia now, that's 6-3 on aggregate. So it's looking like the winner of this will face Unai Emery's side in the final. Although given the week we've had you can't quite call it just yet.
70' - That's it for Rode, who is replaced by de Guzman.
68' - Rode, who has had horrible luck with injuries in his career, is down holding his knee.
64' - The visitors are getting up a head of steam here as Rode's shot deflects behind for a corner. Iit comes to nothing but the pressure is building.
62' - Trapp gets away with spilling a low Azpilicueta cross before Rebic and Jovic can't quite get it together. The counter finishes with the former blasting over the bar. Sarri replaces Willian with Pedro.
60' - Save! A loose ball drops out of the sky to Gacinovic who catches it sweetly. But it's straight at Kepa, who bats is away.
59' - Rode, who has been booked, makes another foul. Probably wasn't worthy of a second yellow but that's a couple now, the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder needs to watch himself.
56' - The Frankfurt fans are making some racket now as Luiz swings out a brilliant ball, left to right, bang on the right boot of compatriot Willian. But his cross is tepid and far too close to Trapp.
54' - Just seeing that Jovicgoal again. He gave Kepa the eyes, waited for the keeper to make his move and lashed it low to the other side. He's a proper finisher, not a hint of panic.
52' - Giroud is the beneficiary of more great work from Hazard this time but pokes wide with the outside of his left foot. Then Kovacic is booked for catching Falette late when the pair were challenging for a bouncing ball.
49' - What a side Frankfurt are. Moments after they had a penalty claim denied, the Eagles are level. Jovic chests a straight ball down to Rebic and the spins, leaving Luiz in his dust. Rebic is two steps ahead of the Chelsea defense and slips in his teammate to slap it past Kepa.
49' - GOAL! Chelsea 1 - 1 Eintracht Frankfurt (Jovic)
48' - Jorginho isn't ready to receive a pass from Luiz but Rebic slips when he looked set to take advantage. Not the first time that's happened to the Croatian tonight.
46' - The second half gets started. Can Frankfurt find another shock or are we looking at an all-English final in both European competitions?
HALF TIME: Ruben Loftus Cheek's goal, created by Eden Hazard, separates theh sides at the break. Both teams have had their spells of pressure and Kepa has mad one outstanding save from da Costa. It's still very much in the balance.
44' - It's all getting a bit niggly and scrappy out there now. A foul here, a mis-placed pass there.
40' - Loftus Cheek bundles his way through the Frankfurt box but is eventually squeezed out. That move started with a lovely bit of skill from Jorginho in his own box.
37' - Jovic shrugs off Jorginho, who has had a poor game so far, and slips in Rebic. The Croatian tries to cut back inside Luiz but slips at the crucial moment.
35' - Jovic, who hasn't had a kick for a while, gets a sudden sight of goal but snatches his shot, which is blocked. Rebic keeps it on when he probably should've taken the corner and eventually concedes a freekick.
32' - After a fast Frankfurt start, the home side are looking very comfortable now and dominating possession. But the Eagles always have a threat on the counter.
28' - That one had been coming. Hazard shows strength and skill to escape the attentions of Abraham and picks a lovely reverse ball to Loftus Cheek, who has run off the back of Rode. The young English midfielder just strokes it in to the far corner. Lovely finish from a player who is starting to fulfill his promise.
28' - GOAL! Chelsea 1 - 0 Eintracht Frankfurt (Loftus Cheek)
24' - Off the line! Frankfurt under some pressure now. a stupid foul by da Costa allows Willian to whip in a low freekick. A Chelsea player gets a touch and Trapp is beaten but Hasebe is hurtling back towards his own goal line and flicks it away from danger. Great anticipation.
23' - Save! Some lovely link up play from Hazard, Willian and Giroud sets Emerson away. HIs low cross is turned goalwards by Giroud but it strikes Trapp on the chest and goes behind. The corner goes nowhere. Trapp didn't know much about that save but was in a good position to make the stop.
22' - In the other semifinal, Arsenal have replied to an early Valencia goal with this effort. The London club now lead 4-2 on aggregate.
19' - Jorginho plays a dreadful ball to Azpilicueta before Luiz pumps one directly out of play. The camera then pans to the away fans who are bouncing merrily away.
14' - Save! A Jorginho handball gives Frankfurt a freekick in a dangerous position. It's set up for a leftie so Kostic takes it. He tries to hit it low under the wall but Luiz is wise to it, doesn't jump and lumps it clear. Frankfurt then recycle it and da Costa arrives at the back post to connect beautifully with a sidefooted volley from 15 yard that Kepa flies to his left to tip away. Great strike, great save.
11' - Penalty claim! Willian gets free down the right and drives low to Giroud. The Frenchman gets a flick on it but can'T direct it goalwards. Loftus Cheeks looks to follow up at the back post and goes to ground under challenge from da Costa but the referee, probably rightly, decides there wasn't much in it.
10' - Hazard gets the wrong side of Hinteregger and is this close to getting a toe on the ball to bring it down. He's looking in the mood.
8' - Hazard starting to get on the ball now. This time he dips inside before slipping in Emerson for a first time cross. But it's far too close to Trapp.
5' - Looks like a back three again for Frankfurt, with da Costa and Kostic as wingbacks. They've unsettled their hosts early on, with poor touches from Loftus Cheek and Kovacic already.
3' - Rebic gets away down the left and whips one in. Christensen just gets up to head behind for a corner but seems to hurt his ankle in the process. Jovic rises well to win the header from the dead ball but it's straight at Kepa. He was a fair way out but decent start from the visitors.
1' - Sarri and Hütter embrace on the touchline and Giroud gets us underway. Frankfurt in white this evening.
20: 58 - A typically impressive choreograhpy from the visitors behind the goal while Chelsea's fans fly an enormous flag in support of Eden Hazard, who could well be playing his last game as a Blues player at the Bridge.
20:55 - The players are in the tunnel, Cesar Azpilicueta and David Abraham clutching their banners. It's almost time.
20:50 - The Eagles have been impressive on the road this year. The only game they've lost was in the last round to Benfica and caveated by an early red card for Evan N'Dicka. They've beaten Lazio, Marseille and Internazionale away from home. Why not Chelsea?
20:44 - Frankfurt's fans have been almost as big a story as their team in Europe this year and our man at Stamford Bridge has found them in good voice early on.
20:34 - The teams are in and Sebastien Haller is only fit enough for Frankfurt’s bench but Luka Jovic, Ante Rebic and Filip Kostic all offer a legitimate threat from the start.
After being benched for the first leg, Eden Hazard returns for Chelsea, who prefer Olivier Giroud to Gonzalo Higuain up top.
20:24 - A little bit of breaking news before we get stuck in to the lineups. Former Huddersfield boss David Wagner, who used to coach Borussia Dortmund's reserves, has agreed to take over at Schalke. Seems a solid appointment that, I interviewed Wagner last season and he seemed a man with a plan and the kind of guy who can really build a club. But then, it's Schalke so...
20:15 - Frankfurt's fans have waited since 1980 for a European final and could now just be 90 minutes away from a chance to add to that UEFA Cup victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach in Baku.
Despite having not won since knocking Benfica out in the quarterfinal, Adi Hütter's team still sit fourth in the Bundesliga and need only a high scoring draw or win to progress tonight after a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
But Hütter described the first half of Saturday's 6-1 loss to fellow Champions League challengers Bayer Leverkusen as "the worst half of football in my career," and the Eagles have looked to be running out of gas a little. But then, many thought that of Spurs before last night - and Frankfurt love defying the odds.
They will need to do that against a Chelsea side whose sole focus is now on this competiton, which they won in 2013, after they assured their return to the Champions League in 2019-20 with a 3-0 win over Watford on Sunday.