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

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.


Mayor of town in north Japan bemoans lack of Olympic funds

Updated 15 September 2019

Mayor of town in north Japan bemoans lack of Olympic funds

  • Tokyo is reportedly spending about $20 billion to prepare the city to host the games
  • Tokyo organizers have faced a series of hurdles as they prepare to host the games

TOKYO: The mayor of a town in northeastern Japan that will host Olympic soccer games says his city has received no funding from the central government that has promised to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to help in the reconstruction of the region.

The Japanese government and Tokyo 2020 organizers are hoping to use the Olympics to showcase Japan’s recovery from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Several Olympic events, including soccer and baseball, will be held in northeastern Japan.

But with less than a year to go before the opening ceremony, Yutaka Kumagai, the mayor of Rifu in Miyagi Prefecture, says his city has seen no funding from the central government.

“There is no help from the government, we don’t have any budget from them, none,” Kumagai said on Saturday. “Tokyo 2020 is said to be a symbol of the reconstruction but when it comes to the budget, we don’t have any budget from the Olympic games here in Rifu.”

Kumagai made the comments during a media tour of Miyagi Stadium, a 49,000-seat facility in Rifu that will host men’s and women’s football at the 2020 Olympics.

About 50,000 people are still displaced in the Tohoku region as of August, according to the Reconstruction Agency. Yoshiaki Suda, the mayor of Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture, concurred with Kumagai. Like Rifu, Onagawa is a coastal city that sustained heavy destruction.

“We haven’t received any subsidy, even one yen, from the central government,” Suda said. “Whatever we do for the venues, for the hospitality for the Olympics, we have to do ourselves.”

Some media reports have made the claim that the Olympics have hampered the reconstruction efforts, taking workers away from the region to help with construction in Tokyo.

Japan is one of the most earthquake- and tsunami-prone areas in the world. On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 quake offshore caused a tsunami that triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The quake and tsunami heavily damaged coastal neighborhoods in northeastern Japan and took more than 18,000 lives.

Tokyo, which projected total costs of about $7.5 billion in its winning bid for the games in 2013, is reportedly spending about $20 billion to prepare the city to host the games.

A group of anti-Olympic activists, many from outside Japan, have held small protests and other events this summer under the Japanese title “Han-gorin no Kai” — which translates roughly to No Olympics. They oppose Olympic spending, which they say cuts into budgets for housing and environmental issues.

They also call for more money to rebuild Fukushima prefecture located northeast of Tokyo. Organizers say Fukushima is a main focus of the Olympics, staging baseball, softball and soccer games there to persuade the world the area is safe.

Tokyo organizers have faced a series of hurdles as they prepare to host the games. In August, Tokyo’s summer heat forced an Olympic women’s triathlon qualifying event to be shortened because of high temperatures that are likely to impact next year’s games.

Tsunekazu Takeda, the head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, was forced to quit earlier this year when he was implicated in a vote-buying scheme to land the games. He has denied wrongdoing, but acknowledged he signed off on about $2 million that French investigators allege went to buy votes.