Chelsea overran London rivals Arsenal in Baku, striking four times in the second half of the final to hand Maurizio Sarri his first trophy as a coach.
Arsenal edged the formative stages with Granit Xhaka’s drive from distance clipping the top of the bar, before former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech, playing the last game of his illustrious career, denied Emerson Palmieri and Olivier Giroud before the interval.
The contest needed a spark and Giroud provided it, darting in front of Laurent Koscielny to meet Emerson’s pinpoint delivery with a diving header. It was the French striker’s 11th of the campaign and sealed his position outright at the top of the tournament scoring charts.
Eden Hazard had been a peripheral figure to that point but the Belgian schemer made his mark on the hour, cutting back a low cross that Pedro Rodríguez swept across Čech to give Sarri’s men breathing space.
Two quickly became three when Hazard coolly dispatched a penalty after Ainsley Maitland-Niles had barged over Giroud and, though substitute Alex Iwobi’s stunning drive gave the Gunners fleeting hope, Hazard iced the cake from Giroud’s nonchalant chip.
Hazard lays ghost of 2013 to rest
Chelsea produced a showing full of all their final experience and know-how – with a pinch of ‘Sarriball’ to boot. Jorginho, N’Golo Kanté and the impressively industrious Mateo Kovačić controlled the midfield from the half-hour mark, laying the platform for Giroud, Pedro and, of course, Hazard, to weave their magic. The Belgian, who missed the 2013 UEFA Europa League final through injury, was irrepressible and unstoppable six years on. He has his moment and Chelsea have theirs.
Dan Thacker, Chelsea reporter
Blues win the midfield battle
Arsenal were actually the brighter side for much of the first half in Baku, with Lucas Torreira imposing himself in a fractious opening. Slowly but surely, though, Chelsea gained a stranglehold, squeezing tighter and pushing higher (Čech never had a free pass) until, four minutes after the restart, the Gunners were breached. And there was no respite, no resting on laurels. The hard press simply got harder. Iwobi’s thunderbolt aside, Arsenal had no answer.
Man of the match presented by Hankook Tire Europe: Eden Hazard
“Hazard was dangerous throughout the game,” explained Thomas Schaaf, lead technical observer. “He was difficult for Arsenal to deal with when the ball was at his feet, he opened space and linked well with his fellow attackers and was involved in all goals.”