Hazard writes fairy-tale ending by winning Europa League in likely Chelsea farewell
BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Eden Hazard marked what is expected to be his final Chelsea appearance -- something he alluded to in a post-match interview -- with a match-winning display, scoring twice in the second half of the Europa League final while Olivier Giroud and Pedro also found the net to earn Maurizio Sarri his first trophy in management at Arsenal's expense in a 4-1 win.
This was exactly the farewell that Hazard wanted. He's likely to end his Chelsea career on a high and leave a sweet taste at the end of what has been a deeply divisive season for many supporters. Sarri will also never again have to field a question about whether he needs to win a trophy, whether or not he stays.
Baku proved a friendly, accommodating host to all those who made it to Azerbaijan, but it was clear from the subdued atmosphere inside the stadium that everyone involved would have been better served playing a game of this stature elsewhere. Chelsea fans who missed this trip won't forgive UEFA.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Sarri's decision to put his faith in N'Golo Kante's fitness was vindicated by an impressive performance and Chelsea ultimately won this game by playing to the manager's system, even if the opportunism of Giroud and the individual brilliance of Hazard made the difference on the pitch.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 7 -- Fortunate not to gift Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang an early goal with a needless parry into danger, he settled reasonably well after that and performed solidly even while rarely tested. Could do nothing about Alex Iwobi's brilliant volley but later made a sublime reaction stop from Aubameyang.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 8 -- His desire to put his body between the ball and his goal helped Chelsea endure their more testing moments of the first half, though Iwobi gave him more trouble when he came on. Picked the right moments to get forward and almost scored himself when Hazard played him in.
DF Andreas Christensen, 8 -- Not as eye-catching as David Luiz but no less effective, reading situations calmly and often snuffing out danger before it had time to develop. Alexandre Lacazette got no joy against him at all and with Arsenal flailing at 4-1 down, he made a brilliant recovery block to deny Aubameyang.
DF David Luiz, 8 -- There were fewer of his audacious long passes than usual, but he lived up to his reputation as a big-game performer on the defensive side of things. He was the main reason why Aubameyang struggled so mightily to have any impact on the game, dominant in the air and on the floor.
DF Emerson Palmieri, 7 -- Was the first man in blue to test Petr Cech with a rasping drive in the first half after Hazard had picked out his overlapping run. Was less of a factor going forward after the break, but supplied the cross that enabled Giroud to put Chelsea on the path to victory.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 7 -- Provided one of the few moments of quality in a turgid first half with a dangerous burst down the right. Kept the ball well in tight spaces and carried it well in transition, even if he remains utterly incapable of shooting.
MF Jorginho, 8 -- Mesut Ozil did a good-enough marking job to prevent all of Chelsea's possession going through their divisive regista, but he used the ball well when it came to getting his side on the front foot. Unlucky not to break his assist drought when he slipped in Giroud.
MF N'Golo Kante, 8 -- Appeared limited throughout his cautious warm-up but the lack of speed and intensity in the game suited his hurt knee perfectly. Passed and moved intelligently throughout and also popped up to execute a vital block as Lucas Torreira wound up a shot on the edge of the box.
FW Pedro, 7 -- Threatened to cost his side at times by not tracking Sead Kolasinac's forward surges and much of his early running in attack came to nothing. Can still be absolutely lethal though, and found a clinical touch when Hazard supplied him to double Chelsea's lead.
FW Olivier Giroud, 8 -- Cech was the friend-turned-enemy who commanded all the attention ahead of kickoff, but it was the former Gunner who made the decisive breakthrough, stooping brilliantly to guide Emerson's inviting cross in at the near post. Created both of Hazard's goals and did the little things.
FW Eden Hazard, 9 -- The great players invariably write their own scripts and he would not be denied his dream farewell before potentially joining Real Madrid. The most dangerous player on the pitch throughout, his second goal settled Chelsea after Iwobi's stunner.
FW Willian, N/R -- Managed to give Arsenal something else to worry about with his speed in transition when he replaced Pedro on 71 minutes.
MF Ross Barkley, N/R -- Provided fresh legs in place of Kovacic, as always.
DF Davide Zappacosta, N/R -- His introduction allowed Hazard to get the ovation his performance deserved.