Hazard shines as Ozil wilts: Europa League final goals and reactions
Chelsea thrashed Arsenal 4-1 in Baku on Wednesday night to lift the Uefa Europa League trophy in a performance illuminated by Eden Hazard.
In many ways this was a tale of two world-class talents: Hazard and Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil. But whereas Hazard rose to the occasion, scoring twice and adding an assist, Ozil was anonymous.
The German midfielder provided no service to Alexander Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and that inability, combined with Arsenal’s desperate defence, contributed to the Gunners’ humiliation.
It will be a long journey home for their 3,000 fans. They will have plenty of time to mull over a defeat that bodes ill for next season when, once again, Arsenal will be playing in the Europa League.
Sarri to stay?
For Chelsea, however, it’s been a season to remember, despite the view of some fans who didn’t believe Maurizio Sarri was suitable for the job.
But the Italian has steered the Blues to third in the Premier League, the League Cup final and a Europa League trophy – not bad for a manager who had never won a title prior to his appointment last summer.
Rumours have linked him recently to the vacant Juventus job, but as he savoured the win in Baku Sarri told reporters he remained committed to Chelsea.
“I still have two years of contract,” he said. “I want to stay, yes, because the Premier League is the biggest league and I am happy here.”
If Sarri does stay he will have almost certainly have to make do without Hazard. The Belgian has been linked with a move to Real Madrid and when asked about his future, he replied: “I have made my decision already and now I’m waiting on both clubs. I think it is a goodbye, but in football you never know.
“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.”
No Chelsea fan will begrudge Hazard a move to Madrid, not after seven years of impeccable service that culminated in his majestic display in Baku.
It was he more than anyone that brought the final to life after a flat first half in a near silent stadium, dismal evidence that Uefa’s decision to award the final to Azerbaijan had backfired.
Oliver Giroud opened the scoring four minutes after the break when he headed Emerson’s cross past his former Arsenal team-mate Petr Cech. Hazard teed up Pedro for the second on the hour mark and then the Belgian made it 3-0 from the penalty spot after Giroud had been flattened by Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Substitute Alex Iwobi gave Arsenal fans brief hope when he lashed home a stunning goal but Hazard ensured there was to be no Liverpool or Tottenham-style comeback for the Gunners when he scored again on 72 minutes.
“He’s an odd lad,” said Sarri, when asked to describe Hazard. “But once you get into his comfort zone, he’s wonderful.”
What they said about Hazard
Cesc Fabregas, former Chelsea midfielder: “I don’t think Chelsea, right now, can give what Hazard deserves. There’s a ceiling at Chelsea. I know Eden says he doesn’t care about the Ballon d’Or but deep down he does and at Real Madrid he can win it and he can win the Champions League.”
Gary Lineker, former England striker now TV pundit: “A brilliant display from Eden Hazard… possibly his last for the club. Boy, they’ll miss him if he goes.”
The Guardian: “There was no answer to such brilliance. English football will miss his effervescence, even if defenders up and down the elite will breathe a sigh of relief.”
What they said about Ozil
The Daily Telegraph: “The body language of all the Arsenal players was unimpressive, but Ozil shrivelled.”
Martin Keown: “Ozil is your biggest player, and he cannot play away from home. Half the games he’s not available for. Something’s got to give there.”
Piers Morgan: “Time to sell Ozil. In fact, tonight would be good.”