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Lacazette hails unbelievable goal from Gunners hero

Valencia 2 Arsenal 4

Big moment: Alexandre Lacazette scores for Arsenal last night
Big moment: Alexandre Lacazette scores for Arsenal last night
On the march: Unai Emery hails his side’s semi-final win

By Simon Peach

Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette saluted his strike partner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after Valencia were blown away in the Mestalla last night.

Aubameyang hit a hat-trick as Arsenal eased past Valencia to secure their place in the Europa League final in Baku where they will face neighbours Chelsea.

Having led 3-1 from the first leg, Unai Emery's side were favourites to advance and got the better of a back-and-forth contest, with Aubameyang hitting three to seal a 4-2 win on the night and a 7-3 aggregate success.

Despite falling behind to Kevin Gameiro's 11th-minute effort, the Gunners rallied as Aubameyang equalised and Lacazette struck to put them ahead on the night and in control of the tie.

Gameiro, who was part of Emery's Sevilla side who won three successive Europa League titles, continued his fine scoring run in the competition with another - only for Aubameyang to add the gloss with two more efforts.

"We reacted well to going behind and we knew we had to score a minimum of one goal tonight. Auba was unbelievable tonight with an incredible hat-trick, so thanks to him," said Lacazette.

"We have played badly in Premier League during the last month and now we have to use this opportunity. We want to play in the Champions League next season and we want the trophy."

A disappointing home draw with Brighton last weekend all but ended any hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League for Arsenal but Emery, who has not lost a knockout tie in this competition since he was in charge of Valencia in 2012, knows he needs to win the same title in Baku on May 29 to seal a Champions League group stage return for the Gunners in his first season at the helm.

Emery said: "I'm very proud of the players, of the supporters who are with us here tonight, and I think we deserve it.

"I think the players have done well, doing all they can, and we can be I think, and every supporter the same, proud of all of Arsenal."

When the Arsenal boss was asked how he felt personally about returning to the final, he said: "The past is for taking experience and using in the present."

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech said: "The team who manages to get to the final always deserves it. It would be a remarkable end to my career to play a European final against my former team, Chelsea.

"With all my experience, I can compensate for the match rhythm with my preparation. The key is always how you prepare in training and I always behave the same whether I am starting or on the bench.

"I enjoyed it when we scored the fourth goal because that was the moment I knew we were in the final."

Belfast Telegraph


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