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Hazard's perfect farewell

Eden inspires Euro glory before move to Real

Silver lining: Eden Hazard gets to grips with the Europa League trophy after his final appearance for Chelsea
Silver lining: Eden Hazard gets to grips with the Europa League trophy after his final appearance for Chelsea

By Simon Peach

Eden Hazard brought the curtain down on his Chelsea career in stunning style with a two goal blast to crush Arsenal in the Europa League Final.

The Blues became the first team to stay unbeaten over their 15 matches to win the tournament and reward Maurizio Sarri with his first trophy as a manager.

But while Sarri's future at Chelsea is unclear after this 4-1 victory in Baku, Hazard confirmed his seven-year adventure at Stamford Bridge is ending.

Real Madrid are confident of landing the Belgium forward in a £115m deal and the 28-year-old said: "My dream was to play in the Premier League and I have done that for one of the biggest clubs so maybe now it is the time for a new challenge.

"We will decide in a few days and the only target in my mind was to win this final.

"I have made my decision already and now I'm waiting on both clubs. I think it is a goodbye."

Former Gunner Olivier Giroud opened the scoring against his old club with a wonderful header and Pedro swept past the retiring Petr Cech from Hazard's cross before the wing wizard struck twice, the first from the penalty spot. Arsenal miss out on a Champions League place next season after this defeat in Azerbaijan.

Hazard added: “It was good. I think both teams were playing with a bit of stress with it being a final but when Olivier scored, it was the beginning of a great night. We played well and controlled the game and I’m happy to leave this trophy with the boys. The manager said to carry on playing football at the break and today we showed this mentality.”

Alex Iwobi gave Arsenal hope with a swerving 20-yard strike but Hazard smashed home Giroud’s cross to seal it. It was a London derby low on atmosphere, 2,500 miles away from home with plenty of empty seats.

Giroud said his side turned on the power in the second half.

“It was an interesting first half but there were no goals,” he said.

“It was a good final and we have been better, more efficient in the second half.

“I am very proud, this team deserved to win something. It was special for me, I am happy for this club. It’s my second trophy in two years.

“These two clubs changed my life, they [Arsenal] gave me the opportunity to play in the Premier League. I didn’t want to celebrate against Arsenal but I am so proud to win this trophy with Chelsea.

“When you give me the chance to get game time, I always try my best. It was our second target to win the Europa League after finishing in the top four so I feel blessed.”

Chelsea winger Pedro became the fifth player to score in a European Cup/Champions League and Uefa Cup/Europa League final, after Allan Simonsen, Dmitri Alenichev, Hernan Crespo and Steven Gerrard.

He said: “In the first-half I think it was more open and Arsenal had a lot of chances but I think we controlled the game well in the second-half and moved the ball between the lines until the end.

“It is unbelievable and it is another goal and another European final.

“The best thing was the team work today. It is another trophy and I am happy to win another title and I think we deserve it because we were the best team in the tournament.

“To close this season with the trophy is great. I link with Eden well and he is the best player. I’m so happy for him to win this title.”

Chelsea defender David Luiz felt it was a perfect end to a difficult season for the Blues.

“We had some ups and downs but we have improved a lot and learned a lot this season,” he said.

“We finished well and won a trophy. It is my third title in Europe with Chelsea, they believe in my game. Sarri is a great guy, a great coach and he deserves this. The manager did amazing for this club. I don’t know about speculation, now is the time to talk about the title.”

Sarri won 39 matches in all competitions for Chelsea this season — the only manager to ever win more in his first year in charge of the Blues was Jose Mourinho, who banked 42 victories in 2004/05.

Belfast Telegraph


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