Arsenal and Chelsea both qualified for the Europa League final today by advancing past Valencia and Eintracht Frankfurt, respectively. That means both the Europa League and Champions League finals will be contested by English clubs, officially consecrating 2019 as the year of Premier League supremacy.
Arsenal did most of the hard work of overcoming Valencia in the first leg of their semifinal tie by winning 3-1 at home in London. The Gunners cruised today as well, winning 4-2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat trick, Alexandre Lacazette had the other goal, and by firing their team to victory, the two Francophones maintained Arsenal’s hopes of playing in the Champions League next season should they go ahead and win in the final.
Chelsea’s home match against Frankfurt was more tense. The Blues got a decent result in the first leg with a 1-1 draw that was closer to a win because of their away goal. Ruben Loftus-Cheek gave Chelsea breathing room early in today’s return leg with a goal in the 28th minute, but budding star Luka Jović got on the scoresheet in the 49th minute to level the aggregate scoreline.
Unable to find a breakthrough in regulation, the game went to stoppage time. There, it continued along the same, boring pace it had been puttering at through the duration. The best highlight of the match was probably this timely David Luiz goal-line clearance that saved Chelsea’s ass in extra time:
Eventually, the match went to penalties. César Azpilicueta missed his attempt, but Kepa Arrizabalaga made two saves—including this fairly odd one where he just stood there in the center without picking a side in a way I’ve never seen before as Martin Hinteregger kicked the ball straight at him:
With the winning penalty on his foot, Eden Hazard stepped up to take the final spot kick. Displaying an entirely appropriate lack of concern or anxiousness in a tournament he is far too good for, the Belgian calmly set the ball down, stepped back, ran up, and clipped the ball in the net to send Chelsea to the final.
The Europa League is a much more meaningful tournament now that the winner automatically qualifies for the Champions League, so this final should be pretty fun. Chelsea already secured their presence in next season’s Champions League by ensuring themselves a top four finish in the league last weekend, but Arsenal have everything riding on the final; they are almost sure to miss out on fourth place after the EPL season finale this Sunday. I eagerly await Arsenal winning the Europa League, Liverpool winning the Champions League, and hearing annoying Gooners troll Spurs fans by claiming that Arsenal had the better season.
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