Chelsea 1-1 Frankfurt (4-3 pens): Hazard pen sends Blues to final

Chelsea 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt (2-2 agg, 4-3 pens): Eden Hazard sends Blues to Europa League final against Arsenal with winning penalty as Stamford Bridge showdown goes the distance

  • Chelsea are going to the Europa League final after defeating Frankfurt on penalties at Stamford Bridge
  • Eden Hazard stepped up to slot home the winner after Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia missed
  • Ruben Loftus-Cheek broke the deadlock in the tie on 27 minutes after a passage of trickery from Eden Hazard 
  • Luka Jovic hit back in the second half and took on a Mijat Gacinovic pass to slot the ball into the bottom corner
  • They face Arsenal in an all-English final in Baku, after the Gunners defeated Valencia 4-2 (7-3 agg) in Spain 

It is never easy down at the Bridge, is it? Oh well, the hard way always tastes sweeter.

In the end Eden Hazard struck home Chelsea’s decisive spot kick during a tense penalty shoot-out.

If that is to he is last kick at Stamford Bridge as a Chelsea footballer than it’s a fitting way to go.

Chelsea are on their way to the Europa League final in Baku after beating Eintracht Frankfurt after extra-time and penalties

Chelsea are on their way to the Europa League final in Baku after beating Eintracht Frankfurt after extra-time and penalties

The Blues needed the tie to go the full distance before emerging as eventual victors at Stamford Bridge

The Blues needed the tie to go the full distance before emerging as eventual victors at Stamford Bridge

Eden Hazard stepped up to take the match-winning penalty for Chelsea in the shootout to book a Europa League final place

Eden Hazard stepped up to take the match-winning penalty for Chelsea in the shootout to book a Europa League final place

The Belgian held his nerve to send the goalkeeper the wrong way and set up an all-English final with rivals Arsenal

The Belgian held his nerve to send the goalkeeper the wrong way and set up an all-English final with rivals Arsenal

Hazard had the chance to win the match following two misses from Frankfurt's Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia

Hazard had the chance to win the match following two misses from Frankfurt’s Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia

But Hazard and his team owe Kepa Arrizabalaga a gigantic debt of gratitude, the goalkeeper saving two penalties as Chelsea booked their place in an all-English Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku.

Heart-stopping stuff. It always is in this part of west London.

In retrospect, it needn’t have been so nerve-wracking. It was all going so swimmingly – Ruben Loftus-Cheek had scored to put the Blues well on their way to Azerbaijan.

But suddenly they lost their way. Suddenly they were nervous. Suddenly we were in the midst of a penalty shoot-out after Eintracht Frankfurt’s blue-eyed boy Luka Jovic scored – just like he did in the first leg – to put the cat amongst the pigeons.

Credit to Chelsea for finding a way because for moments they looked dead on their feet.

The fact Chelsea secured their place in next season’s Champions League last weekend should also have relaxed the mind slightly ahead of the tie.

By the end though, the anxiety was crystal clear. It was certainly etched all over Maurizio Sarri’s face.

Within minutes of being sacked as Chelsea trailed 1-0 at Cardiff on March 31, Sarri – somehow – has guided the Blues back into the top-four.

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta was granted a reprieve after missing the first penalty of the tense shootout

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta was granted a reprieve after missing the first penalty of the tense shootout

The Spaniard saw his effort well saved by Kevin Trapp, as Frankfurt supporters went crazy behind the Shed End goal

The Spaniard saw his effort well saved by Kevin Trapp, as Frankfurt supporters went crazy behind the Shed End goal

Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga threw himself full-stretch to deny Goncalo Paciencia and provide Hazard the chance to win it

Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga threw himself full-stretch to deny Goncalo Paciencia and provide Hazard the chance to win it

A penalty prior to Paciencia's miss, Kepa had saved Martin Hinteregger's strange effort by standing centrally in his goal

A penalty prior to Paciencia’s miss, Kepa had saved Martin Hinteregger’s strange effort by standing centrally in his goal

Chelsea were saved by the finest of margins in extra-time, as David Luiz stretched to clear a shot off the line

Chelsea were saved by the finest of margins in extra-time, as David Luiz stretched to clear a shot off the line

Yet his job remains on the in doubt. But how can Chelsea justify firing a man who’s guided them to Champions League qualification and a European final all in the same season?

Even for Chelsea, that scenario would be rather harsh. Though, Sarri’s non-inclusion in a team huddle just before the start of extra time spoke a thousand words about the simmering relationship between the squad and manager.

The fact Eintracht’s coach Adolf Hutter was slap bang in the middle of theirs said more about Sarri’s situation than it did of his team’s own team-spirit.

Sarri’s animated performance on the touchline appeared to suggest he knew exactly what was riding on this game.

Fourth official Pavel Kralovec even had to intervene, ordering Sarri to calm down as he lost it after Matteo Kovacic was adjudged to have handled.

His anxieties transmitted to the home supporters, who were strangely subdued during the early stages.

In contrast, the traveling fans were loving every minute of their trip to London as they more than made up for the Blues faithful’s lack of gusto.

Had Luka Jovic sent his header from Sebastian Rode’s cross a yard either side of Kepa Arrizabalaga in the fourth minute then they’d have blown the roof off Stamford Bridge.

Instead, Chelsea eventually settled into their rhythm, though Arrizabalaga did produce an outstanding flying save to deny Danny da Costa’s sensationally executed goalbound volley from the edge of the area.

Maurizio Sarri was in the ears of the fourth official regarding time added on at the end of regulation time

Maurizio Sarri was in the ears of the fourth official regarding time added on at the end of regulation time

Luka Jovic hit back in the second half and controlled a Mijat Gacinovic pass to slot the ball into the bottom left corner

Luka Jovic hit back in the second half and controlled a Mijat Gacinovic pass to slot the ball into the bottom left corner

The Serbian peeled away in celebration and held his arms aloft after leveling the match at 1-1 with an aggregate 2-2 scoreline

The Serbian peeled away in celebration and held his arms aloft after leveling the match at 1-1 with an aggregate 2-2 scoreline

Jovic was soon mobbed by his team-mates as the Franfurt players piled towards the Shed End at Stamford Bridge

Jovic was soon mobbed by his team-mates as the Franfurt players piled towards the Shed End at Stamford Bridge

Frenchman Olivier Giroud immediately tried to rally the home crowd after Frankfurt hit their equaliser

Frenchman Olivier Giroud immediately tried to rally the home crowd after Frankfurt hit their equaliser

Loftus-Cheek was denied a 10th minute penalty when Da Costa clumsily careered into the back of him when he seemed certain to score at the back post before Kevin Trapp stopped Olivier Giroud’s flicked effort with an instinctive save.

Makoto Hasebe then cleared David Luiz’s glancing header off the line as Chelsea looked to take the lead in the tie for the first time.

And eventually Eintracht caved. Inevitably, it was Hazard who picked the lock, his slide rule pass beautifully finished by Loftus-Cheek in the 28th minute.

In what could to be Hazard’s final game at Stamford Bridge ahead of a possible move to Real Madrid, it’s fitting he was at the centre of Chelsea’s opener.

They’ll miss him if he leaves. Of course they will. Any team would.

But time moves on – so do footballers. And in Loftus-Cheek, the west London club have reason to be believe that they’ll do just fine without their brilliant Belgian.

Slowly but surely, the England midfielder is winning Sarri over. It bodes well for next season, particularly if CAS reject Chelsea’s transfer ban appeal.

It also bodes well for Gareth Southgate ahead of the UEFA Nations League finals in Portugal next month.

Tempers began to boil as Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta gave angry verbals to Frankfurt's Simon Falette on the turf

Tempers began to boil as Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta gave angry verbals to Frankfurt’s Simon Falette on the turf

Ruben Loftus-Cheek had opened the scoring for Chelsea by picking out the far corner from a narrow angle

Ruben Loftus-Cheek had opened the scoring for Chelsea by picking out the far corner from a narrow angle

The imposing midfielder drilled home a classy effort after being skillfully assisted by the trickery of Eden Hazard

The imposing midfielder drilled home a classy effort after being skillfully assisted by the trickery of Eden Hazard

The England international celebrated with his team-mates in Blue as the Chelsea faithful cheered their side taking the lead

The England international celebrated with his team-mates in Blue as the Chelsea faithful cheered their side taking the lead

Loftus-Cheek was withdrawn in the second half and did not appear too happy with his manager Maurizio Sarri

Loftus-Cheek was withdrawn in the second half and did not appear too happy with his manager Maurizio Sarri

He did not react too kindly at the news he was set to leave the field, as Chelsea were preparing to head into extra-time

He did not react too kindly at the news he was set to leave the field, as Chelsea were preparing to head into extra-time

David Luiz denied the Germans an opportunity from a dead-ball position, after leaping up to make a block with his head

David Luiz denied the Germans an opportunity from a dead-ball position, after leaping up to make a block with his head

The German’s simply couldn’t cope with Loftus-Cheek’s powerful swagger in midfield. Eintracht’s players were bouncing off the 23-year-old, who could have doubled Chelsea’s lead in the 39th minute following a swift Blues counter attack.

They were about to bounce out of the Europa League if they couldn’t muster a second half response.

But they did, and it arrive almost instantly. Chelsea were lucky not to concede a 47th minute penalty when the ball appeared to strike Kovacic on the hand.

The Germans weren’t remonstrating for long, though. Instead they were celebrating Jovic’s leveller.

David Luiz was at fault, losing the original aerial duel with Eintracht’s dangerous front man, before losing him again allowing to Jovic slot home Mijat Gacinovic’s pass.

Hands on his head, Sarri couldn’t comprehend his side’s incompetence after the restart. He wasn’t the only one.

Giroud squandered a chance to instantly re-assert Chelsea’s advantage, but it was the visitor’s who sensed blood.

Arrizabalaga denied Gacinovic’s venomous effort from the edge, while Jovic and Ante Rebic were causing Chelsea’s rearguard all manner of problems.

Make no mistake, Chelsea were on the ropes.

Earlier in the tie, the Blues were narrowly denied as defensive midfielder Makoto Hasebe cleared one off the goal-line

Earlier in the tie, the Blues were narrowly denied as defensive midfielder Makoto Hasebe cleared one off the goal-line

Giroud got involved in the physical nature of the tie early on, and was seen battling to hold up the ball

Giroud got involved in the physical nature of the tie early on, and was seen battling to hold up the ball

Referee Ovidiu Alin Hategan of Romania showed a yellow card to Frankfurt's Simon Falette during the opening stages

Referee Ovidiu Alin Hategan of Romania showed a yellow card to Frankfurt’s Simon Falette during the opening stages

Frankfurt fans held flags aloft as the teams made their way onto the pitch, and whipped up an electric atmosphere

Frankfurt fans held flags aloft as the teams made their way onto the pitch, and whipped up an electric atmosphere

Central defender Andreas Christensen was forced off with injury to be replaced Davide Zappacosta as Sarri offered his latest snub to club captain Gary Cahill, who stayed on the bench.

His next substitution sparked a chorus of boos from his own fans after Loftus-Cheek was replaced by Ross Barkley, Blues supporters furious the former had to make way.

By now Chelsea had appeared to weather Eintracht’s second half storm, Giroud forcing Trapp into a smart save in the 87th minute as the game entered extra time.

Luiz atoned for his earlier error in the 10th minute of extra time with a brilliant goal line clearance to deny Sebastien Haller, who was denied again soon after by Zappacosta’s last gasp clearance.

Chelsea weren’t without their extra time opportunities either, Emerson Palmieri was denied before Azpilicueta thought he’d bundled home the winner only for the goal to be rightly ruled out for his foul on keeper Trapp.

It took penalties to separate these two sides, Cesar Azpilicueta missed for the Blues, but his blushes were spared by countryman Arrizabalaga who saved from Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia to allow Hazard to fire home the winner.

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