It had to be penalty kicks at Stamford Bridge, which finally decided that it will be Chelsea over Eintracht Frankfurt that will advance into the finals of Europa League.
The first leg between Chelsea and Eintracht Frankfurt that took place in Germany ended in a 1:1, which left both teams with an excellent chance to prove themselves in the 2nd leg and advance into the finals of the Europa League. Prior to the match start, it was understandably Chelsea, who were considered a heavy favourites to win in front of their own fans and while the match did not go as planned, the first few minutes were in Chelsea’s favour.
In the first 45 minutes as a whole, it was the Blues who were the better side, however, not by much. Chelsea had more ball possession, but only 1 more goal attempt (5-4) and the same amount of shots on goal (2-2). Although there were only 4 shots on goal total in the first half, the match featured numerous chances from both sides, some of which were extremely close to being converted into a goal. Despite good attempts from both sides, it was the home side who managed to score the first and only goal of the 1st half. The goal was scored by Loftus-Cheek after an extraordinary pass from Eden Hazard into the box, which left the German defence powerless. The 1st half continued in an aggressive fashion, with a few more dangerous attacks from the Germans, who desperately wanted to score, but failed to do so.
The 2nd half started off where the 1st one left off, with an aggressive approach from the away side, who managed to take advantage of Chelsea’s defence who forgot to keep an eye on Jovic, who once again scored against the English team and got his team back levelled at 1:1. This now put the match back on the level playing field (2:2) with 40 minutes left to go. The remaining minutes proved to be highly entertaining, with countless great opportunities for both sides. We expected a goal, however, it seemed like it was just not meant to be. Despite 15 goal attempts combined by the two teams in the 2nd half, the match ended level at 1:1, which meant we were going to watch the extra time. The 30 added minutes once again proved to not be enough for the teams to score, which meant penalty kicks were on the horizon.
The most dramatic way to end the semi-finals was here, with the winner being decided by penalty kicks. Haller and Barkley both scored for their teams. The third player to step up was Jovic, who as expected scored, and got his team into a lead. Azpilicueta stepped up to level the score, but his shot was saved, which left Chelsea 1 goal down. Both Buzman and Jorginho scored the next penalty kicks, which kept the score 1 goal apart (2:3). The fourth player for Eintracht Frankfurt, Hinteregger decided to shot the ball straight, which was read be Kepa, who stood firm and stopped his shot, thus getting his team back into the game. Now it all came down to David Luiz to score and level the score. David Luiz as expected took his chance and equalized the score 3:3.
With only two more players left to shot, it was all going to be decided here and then. Paciencia or Hazard. Paciencia shot was stopped by incredible save from Kepa Arrizabalaga, which meant the weight of the European Finals appearance was on Hazard’s shoulders. Hazard took the penalty shot and utilized it to perfection, which lifted the Stamford Bridge on their feet. Chelsea was through after a match that ended up being much harder than they expected. In the end, it was Hazard who decided the match in a fixture that was possibly his last appearance on Stamford Bridge. If he ends up leaving the Blues, his penalty kick, which got Chelsea into the Europa League finals was the best possible way for him to say goodbye to his fans and Chelsea supporters.
With an impressive show, Chelsea now has to face off against a team they know all too well. We are of course talking about Arsenal, who have reached the finals after demolishing Valencia in the semi-finals, and will hope to go all the way to win their first ever Europa League title.