Chelsea beat Eintracht Frankfurt on penalties to reach Europa League final
Eden Hazard hit the winning penalty for Chelsea to beat Eintracht Frankfurt 4-3 in a shootout on Thursday and reach the Europa League final where they will meet fellow Londoners Arsenal.
Chelsea had looked in charge half an hour into the game when Hazard, tipped to leave the club this summer, dodged and shimmied round the Frankfurt defence on the left flank before pushing a perfectly-weighted pass into the path of Ruben Loftus Cheek for the England midfielder to score in the 28th minute.
But three minutes after the break Luka Jovic split the defence, playing a neat one-two with Mijat Gacinovic before shooting home past stranded Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to even the scoreline.
The visitors had the psychological advantage and pressed 2013 champions Chelsea with Luka Jovic, Ante Rebic and Danny da Costa constantly dangerous going forward looking for the invaluable second away goal.
At the other end Olivier Giroud, Willian and substitutes Davide Zappacosta and Gonzalo Higuain squandered chances for the home side in an error-strewn last 20 minutes of normal time and frantic end-to-end half an hour of extra time.
Arrizabalaga saved penalties from Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia in the shootout while Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta also saw his shot stopped.
“Penalties are down to luck. Today we won and in the Carabao (League) Cup final we lost, but this is football. Today was really good and we played against a very difficult team and we are very happy,” Arrizabalaga told BT sport.
Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri said the players were exhausted after a long season.
“I think we played a very good first half and then we got into trouble after the break. We conceded a goal in 10 minutes of panic,” the Italian said.
“We were better in the last part of the match but we were tired in extra time and it was difficult.”
REUTERS/Reporting by Clare Lovell, editing by Pritha Sarkar