English soccer fans will have bragging rights over their European rivals at the end of this season, as Arsenal and Chelsea have both moved on to the Europa League final.
Their advancement comes just days after Liverpool and Tottenham staged unlikely comebacks to set up an English clash in the final of the UEFA Champions League.
Aubameyang Scores Hat Trick
Arsenal moved on to the title match with the help of a hat trick from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. His three goals gave the Gunners a 4-2 victory in the second leg at Valencia, and a 7-3 win overall on aggregate.
Aubameyang’s play drew praise from teammate and fellow striker Alexandre Lacazette, who also scored a goal in the second leg.
“Auba was incredible tonight with an incredible hat trick, so thanks to him,” Lacazette said. “We have played badly in the Premier League over the last month and now we have to use this opportunity. We want to play in the Champions League next season and we want the trophy.”
This is the second straight deep run for Arsenal in the Europa League, as the side lost to eventual winner Atletico Madrid in last year’s semifinals.
Chelsea Goes Through on Penalties
Chelsea had a tougher time in their semifinal against Eintracht Frankfurt. After a 1-1 draw in Frankfurt last week, the two sides fought to the same score in the second leg, with Reben Loftus-Cheek scoring in the first half for Chelsea before Luka Jovic tied things up early in the second half.
Chelsea thought they had won the tie in extra time, as Cesar Azpilicueta appeared to have scored 115 minutes in. But that goal was waved off for a foul on goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, and the match would ultimately go to penalties. Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga made two saves to lead his side to a 4-3 shootout victory.
“Penalties are down to luck. Today we won and in the Carabao Cup final we lost, but this is football,” Arrizabalaga said after the match. “Today was really good and we played against a very difficult team and we are very happy.”
Europa League Meaningful for Both Sides
The Europa League is often seen as a consolation prize compared to the Champions League title, but that doesn’t mean that sides have nothing to play for. While Chelsea has already clinched a top-four spot in the Premier League and a Champions League berth for next season, Arsenal is all but assured of missing out on that path, and would need a Europa League win to get into the top tier European competition.
Meanwhile, even Chelsea’s players have something to play for: the glory that comes with lifting a trophy for their club.
“If it’s my last game I will try to do everything for this club to win a trophy,” Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, who wants to transfer to Real Madrid this summer, told BT Sport. “In my mind I don’t know yet. I don’t think about that. I’m only thinking about winning something for this club and this squad.”
Chelsea is favored to do just that, with William Hill giving the club 4/6 odds of lifting the trophy on May 29 in Baku. Arsenal is only a slight underdog, however, fetching 11/10 odds from the bookmaker.
Chelsea has won the Europa League once in 2013, while Arsenal has one previous finals appearance, which came in 2000 when the tournament was known as the UEFA Cup.