English clubs make history

Left: Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga saving from Eintracht Frankfurt's Martin Hinteregger in their Europa League semi-final shoot-out. The Blues won 4-3 on penalties after the match ended 1-1 (2-2 on aggregate). Below: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga saving from Eintracht Frankfurt's Martin Hinteregger in their Europa League semi-final shoot-out. The Blues won 4-3 on penalties after the match ended 1-1 (2-2 on aggregate). PHOTO: REUTERS
Left: Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga saving from Eintracht Frankfurt's Martin Hinteregger in their Europa League semi-final shoot-out. The Blues won 4-3 on penalties after the match ended 1-1 (2-2 on aggregate). Below: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's hat-trick and Alexandre Lacazette's strike at Valencia take Arsenal through, 4-2 on the night and 7-3 on aggregate. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Arsenal-Chelsea Europa League final means both European finals will feature EPL sides

LONDON • Arsenal and Chelsea have qualified for the Europa League final, completing a historic week with European football's two major finals now featuring Premier League teams.

The London clubs will face one another in Baku, Azerbaijan, on May 29, while Liverpool will play Tottenham in the Champions League final in Madrid on June 1.

The Gunners beat Valencia 4-2 on Thursday night to win their semi-final 7-3 on aggregate.

Chelsea sealed their place by beating Eintracht Frankfurt 4-3 on penalties, with Kepa Arrizabalaga making two saves, after the match finished 1-1 after extra time, with the aggregate at 2-2.

It will be the first time in European football history that one country has monopolised the two finals and means that both trophies will head to England. Many will argue that the billions flowing into the EPL are now having a direct effect on those competitions.

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri, who has now steered his side to two major finals and a top-four place in his debut season, pointed to the English clean sweep as evidence of the league's excellence.

The Italian, whose Blues side opened the scoring through Ruben Loftus-Cheek before Luka Jovic equalised, said: "If you think that, to get to the final of the League Cup, we had to play against Liverpool, against Tottenham - the finalists of the Champions League.

"Then we played against, in my opinion, the best team in Europe in the final, Manchester City, you can understand the level here is very high. At this moment, the Premier League is the best in Europe and, as a consequence, in the world.

"But it's not easy for an English team to arrive in the last month in a very good condition, physically, because here, we play more than in the other countries."

Eden Hazard, in what could be his final home game, drilled the winning spot kick to spark wild scenes at Stamford Bridge.

While the Belgium forward, who is entering the final year of his contract in the summer and has been linked with a blockbuster move to Real Madrid, admitted his future was undecided, his only focus was now to "go to Baku with quality to win the game".

He said: "Against Arsenal, we've struggled a bit the last two or three years. I am only thinking to win something for this club. If it's my last game, I will try to do everything. If it's not, we'll see. In my mind, I don't know yet."

Arsenal ended their Mestalla jinx for their first win on Valencia's home ground to reach their first European final since 2006.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang revealed his teammates had learnt from last term's semi-final exit to Atletico Madrid. The Gabon international, who scored his first hat-trick for the club, said: "It means a lot. This year, we didn't make the same mistakes."

Lifting the trophy is Arsenal's only realistic chance of ending their two-year Champions League exile. They need to beat Burnley away tomorrow, and also conjure up an unlikely eight-goal swing, while Spurs also have to lose at home to Everton, for them to finish in the top four.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2019, with the headline 'English clubs make history'. Print Edition | Subscribe