Eden Hazard scores twice as Chelsea sweep aside Arsenal in Europa League final in Baku

Chelsea players celebrate a goal during the UEFA Europa League final against Arsenal FC at Baku Olympic Stadium, Azerbaijian. (AFP)
Updated 30 May 2019
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Eden Hazard scores twice as Chelsea sweep aside Arsenal in Europa League final in Baku

  • Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock just after half-time before Pedro Rodriguez doubled Chelsea’s lead
  • Eden Hazard converted a penalty to make it 3-0 and then wrapped up victory with his second goal following a fine consolation strike by Alex Iwobi

BAKU: Eden Hazard scored twice in what could be his farewell appearance as Chelsea swept away Arsenal in the Europa League final in Baku, winning 4-1 to hand Maurizio Sarri his first major trophy as a coach.
This match started at 11pm local time on Wednesday in Azerbaijan, but it was Thursday by the time it came to life with a flood of second-half goals started by Olivier Giroud’s 49th-minute opener against his old club.
Hazard then set up Pedro Rodriguez for Chelsea’s second before grabbing a brace of his own — including a penalty — either side of Alex Iwobi’s reply for Arsenal.
The Belgian has been tipped to leave Chelsea for Real Madrid after seven years in England, and if this is to be Hazard’s swansong it was the perfect way to go.
It is his, and Chelsea’s, second Europa League this decade and comes after they finished third in the Premier League to secure their return to the Champions League next season.
There will be no return to Europe’s top table for Arsenal. Unai Emery’s side had to win here to qualify for the Champions League but they were just not good enough on a bizarre night in Azerbaijan’s capital.
Emery was hoping to win this competition for the fourth time. He will get another chance next season, but for now Arsenal’s 25-year wait to bring back a European trophy to north London goes on.
Chelsea will remember their evening with fondness, as will Sarri, who 24 hours earlier had stolen the headlines when he angrily stormed off the pitch here during a training session in front of the television cameras.
The few Chelsea supporters who came will not forget their night either, but the fact there were reportedly only around 1,300 in Azerbaijan will be a source of regret to those at Stamford Bridge.
UEFA’s decision to play the game here had been heavily criticized, with the difficulty and cost of coming to the shores of the Caspian Sea preventing many fans from traveling and meaning Arsenal’s Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan was controversially absent.
Azerbaijan’s strongman President Ilham Aliyev was in the crowd, but there were thousands of empty seats in the Baku Olympic Stadium, a ground which holds almost 70,000,
That meant that, far away from the blood and thunder of a typical derby fixture between these two London clubs, this had the feel of an end-of-season exhibition match on a foreign tour, for much of the first half at least.
The players seemed to be short of their usual rhythm in a match played two and a half weeks after the Premier League season ended.
It came to life though, with an early moment of controversy when Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi dismissed Arsenal appeals for a penalty as Alexandre Lacazette went down under a challenge from Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Granit Xhaka then saw his powerful strike from 25 yards graze the crossbar on its way over as the half-hour mark approached.
Only after that did Chelsea come to life, but Petr Cech — facing his old side in his final match before retiring — blocked an Emerson Palmieri shot and then denied Giroud at the end of a fine move.
However, as the clock ticked past midnight after a goalless first half, Chelsea went ahead when Giroud stole in front of Laurent Koscielny and stooped to head Emerson’s ball in from the left past Cech.
It was his 11th goal in this season’s competition, and there was to be no comeback from Arsenal, with Chelsea quickly putting this final beyond their opponents’ reach as Hazard took over.
He set up Pedro for a clipped finish low beyond Cech and into the far corner on the hour mark, and five minutes later Hazard calmly rolled in a penalty awarded after Ainsley Maitland-Niles had barged into Giroud.
Substitute Iwobi’s sublime reply soon followed, but Arsenal had left themselves with too much to do, and Giroud and Hazard then combined brilliantly for the Belgian to get his second and Chelsea’s fourth in the 72nd minute.


Saudi Arabia’s biggest celebration of motor racing returns with Formula E back at Ad Diriyah

Updated 51 min 11 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s biggest celebration of motor racing returns with Formula E back at Ad Diriyah

  • The event will take place on Nov. 22 and 23
  • Two major races will take place in this year’s E-Prix, which made its Middle East debut in the Kingdom last year

RIYADH: This year’s Formula E season will kick off with a doubleheader in Ad Diriyah in November, backed by a huge festival of off-track action, music, culture and heritage.

The 2019 “Saudia” Ad Diriyah E-Prix promises to eclipse the inaugural 2018 edition, with two races, instead of one, being staged at the stunning UNESCO world heritage site of Ad Diriyah, and with crowds of up to 100,000 expected to attend.

Last year’s sell-out E-Prix featured music icons such as David Guetta, Enrique Iglesias, One Republic and the Black-Eyed Peas, performing as part of the racing championship’s debut in the Middle East.

2019 will see Porsche and Mercedes competing for the first time, boosting the number of cars on the track. Plus, Ad Diriyah will be ready to welcome even more international tourists, after the surrounding At-Turaif district finalizes its ambitious development program.

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA), said: “Formula E’s arrival in the Kingdom was a watershed moment for us, one that thousands witnessed together.

“The 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix excited our nation through its exhilarating action, heroes and entertainment. Thanks to the ambitions of Vision 2030, it was the biggest festival of sport, music and culture the Kingdom has ever seen.

“This year we look forward to igniting an even bigger season of motor racing for Formula E, to welcome even more international visitors, and to create another unforgettable moment for our people.”

In a recent interview with the UAE’s The National newspaper, DJ David Guetta hailed the 2018 event, which included the country’s first unsegregated concerts.

“I’m really proud that I’ve done this. There is obviously a very big effort in Saudi to open to music and to artists. And as an artist, I play for the people and the people were obviously so happy,” he said.

“It was incredible to see men and women dancing and letting go of everything. It was a great honor for me to be part of this.”

Last year saw travelers from 80 different countries flock to the event, taking advantage of the first-ever 30-day tourism visas issued under the new online Sharek immigration system. For 2019 the process has been enhanced to make visiting the Kingdom even easier.

Second staging

The 2019 E-Prix will be the second of a 10-year partnership between Formula E, the GSA and the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). The event will be staged again by promoter CBX, which successfully created the racetrack and venue in the heart of the heritage site.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, president of SAMF, said: “In 2018 the track proved itself a world-class venue for motorsport, hailed by racers as one of the most exiting they have faced.

“This year sees even more teams enter the championship, with Porsche and Mercedes entering the fray. Last year Ad Diriyah was the launchpad for the new ‘Gen 2’ race cars and the exciting ‘Attack Zone’ innovation. This year will be the first time drivers will have an additional 10 kilowatts (kW) of power available when using the ‘Attack Mode,’ rising from 225kW to 235kW.

“Add to that, a double header — two races instead of one — with a total of 24 cars competing. This will fire up Saudi Arabia’s passion for motorsports, and we are ready to welcome Formula E back.”