Chelsea ratings as star Ruben Loftus-Cheek departs to boos, but Blues reach Baku

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Chelsea set up a second all-English European final inside two days as they kept their nerve from 12 yards to beat Eintracht Frankfurt 4-3 on penalties to reach the Europa League final.

They’ll meet London rivals Arsenal in Baku on May 29 after going the distance having drawn 1-1 with the German side at Stamford Bridge as the tie ended 2-2 on aggregate.

After a lively start from the visitors Chelsea settled into a rhythm and the opening goal really settled them down. Eden Hazard sent Ruben Loftus-Cheek in on goal and he side-footed calmly past Kevin Trapp.

The Blues began to get on top but they started the second half sloppily and conceded when Real Madrid-bound Luka Jovic calmy finished past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

CHELSEA (4-3-3)

Kepa Arrizabalaga 8: Stinging shot was palmed to safety superbly from Da Costa. Fisted Gacinovic’s thumped effort away too. Fine stop from Paciencia, as well as Hinteregger from 12 yards.

Cesar Azpilicueta 5: Typically industrious and drove Chelsea on. Another player maybe lucky to only see yellow for ugly challenge on Kostic. Goal disallowed for foul on Trapp, as he faded after break. Missed pen.

David Luiz 7: Standard mixed evening for the centre-back, simply didn’t track Jovic for Serb’s pivotal strike. Ball to pick out Willian was a peach. Cleared Haller’s scuffed effort off the line.

Andreas Christensen 4: Took an early elbow to the stomach. Looked troubled by Jovic and eventually forced off. Didn’t look up for battle.

Emerson 6: Bombed forward down the left, diligent as he had hands busy with rampaging Da Costa in second half.

Mateo Kovacic 6: Thread play neatly in first half, but lucky to stay on early in second for horrendous tackle on Falette.

Jorginho 5: Neat and tidy but lost control of midfield as energetic Frankfurt surged in second half. Lack of dynamism begs question why Kante’s role needed tinkering. Cheekily-converted kick.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek 8: Lively from the outset, Eintract couldn’t shackle him. Fine finish for the opener. Tired but still strange he was brought off, which triggered boos.

Willian 7: A handful for the visitors, pulling his markers out to the touchlines and gliding inside at every opportunity. Oddly hooked on the hour.

Olivier Giroud 6: Linked well with the forward-thinking Chelsea players but faded. Sweet strike forced low save from Trapp.

Eden Hazard 7: Had been quiet, until he sent Loftus-Cheek through to score. Always fulcrum of Chelsea’s attacks, with predictable team-leading four key passes. Not his usual sharpness but man who sent them to Baku.

SUBS

Davide Zappacosta 7: Replaced injured Christensen and immediately got involved, stinging hands of Trapp. Excellent clearance off the line from Haller’s header.

Ross Barkley 7: Loftus-Cheek wasn’t a popular sub but Barkley was lively when he entered. Added impetus to flat-lining Chelsea attack. Cool pen.

Gonzalo Higuain 6: Replaced tiring Giroud, perhaps with a view to taking a penalty, but wasn’t used. Hardly featured.

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Arsenal into Europa League final as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hits hat-trick in 4-2 Valencia win

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit a hat-trick in the Mestalla as Arsenal eased past Valencia to secure their place in the Europa League final.

Having led 3-1 from the first leg, Unai Emery’s side were favourites to advance and got the better of a back-and-forth contest, with Aubameyang hitting three to seal a 4-2 win on the night and a 7-3 aggregate success.

In a week of English comebacks in the Champions League, Aubameyang’s goals made sure Arsenal were not on the receiving end of another.

Despite falling behind to Kevin Gameiro’s 11th-minute effort, the Gunners rallied as Aubameyang equalised and Alexandre Lacazette struck to put them ahead on the night and in control of the tie.

Gameiro, who was part of Emery’s Sevilla side who won three successive Europa League titles, continued his fine scoring run in the competition with another – only for Aubameyang to add the gloss with two more efforts.

A disappointing home draw with Brighton last weekend all but ended any hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League for Arsenal.

Emery is the master of the Europa League.

Emery is the master of the Europa League.

Emery, who has not lost a knockout tie in this competition since he was in charge of Valencia in 2012, knows he needs to win the same title in Baku on May 29 to seal a Champions League return for Arsenal in his first season at the helm.

Valencia created the first chance, Laurent Koscielny doing well to beat Rodrigo to Gameiro’s near-post cross.

Goncalo Guedes fired well wide of Petr Cech’s goal when latching onto Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ clearance, the hosts attempting to start in the same manner which saw them race into a lead at the Emirates Stadium.

That goal would come as Arsenal were caught committing too many men forward and Gameiro slid in to tuck home Rodrigo’s cross from close range.

Gameiro then accidentally blocked a Rodrigo strike as Valencia took the game to their visitors.

But, just as with last week’s first leg, Arsenal hit back seemingly from nowhere as Aubameyang ran on to Lacazette’s header and his cool finish levelled the scores on the night.

The equaliser took some of the wind out of the Valencia sails but skipper Dani Parejo came close with a free-kick 10 minutes before the interval.

Lacazette then spurned a marvellous opportunity to all but put the tie beyond Valencia as he could only turn Aubameyang’s pass onto the outside of the post when Arsenal’s player of the season should have done so much better.

He made amends with a fine finish five minutes after the restart, picking up the ball in the box and wriggling free before arrowing a finish past Neto.

Valencia needed four in the final 40 minutes and pulled one back as Gameiro bundled the ball over the line having again accidentally block a Rodrigo strike.

Ezequiel Garay’s long-range strike flew wide as the La Liga outfit sort to make the closing stages more awkward for Arsenal.

Instead, in committing more men forward, they conceded a third, Aubameyang tucking away Maitland-Niles’ cross to the near-post.

He completed his hat-trick with a drilled finish in the closing stages, grabbing his 29th of the season in the process.

There was a skirmish at full-time, with Maitland-Niles booked for his involvement, but it took little shine off a fine evening for Arsenal, who comfortably advance to the final with Emery again proving he is the go-to man in the Europa League.

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Jose Mourinho brands Ajax 'naive' after Tottenham collapse

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Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho has accused Ajax of naivety after their Champions League collapse against Tottenham.

Ajax’s ambitions of meeting Liverpool in the June 1 final were destroyed as Spurs staged an extraordinary second-half revival in Amsterdam on Wednesday, overturning a 3-0 aggregate deficit to progress on the away goals rule.

Mourinho, a Champions League-winning manager with Porto and Inter Milan, said Ajax’s philosophy was trumped by Tottenham’s strategy at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

And the Portuguese criticised them for treating the second half as if they were “playing against Vitesse in the Dutch league”.

“Every team grows up, you need that base, you need that philosophy, you need that style of play adapted to the quality of the players,” former Chelsea and Manchester United manager Mourinho said in his role as a pundit with BeIN Sports.

“Ajax deserve all the credit for that and all the admiration of people like us who love football, and we give them the credit they deserve.

“But football is a sporting battle and in battles you need strategy and to win matches, especially special matches, for special matches you need sometimes not to be tied to your philosophy.

“You need sometimes to go against your philosophies to win a football match and I think if Ajax, in the second half, hide their weaknesses better, but everybody knows their weaknesses, they have to cope with that.”

Ajax started their Champions League campaign over nine months ago on July 25, with a 2-0 win over Austrian outfit Sturm Graz in the second round of qualifying.

Erik Ten Hag’s side became the first to reach the semi-final of the competition after playing in three qualifying rounds, and thrillingly humbled holders Real Madrid and Juventus in the knockout stages.

Barcelona-bound Frenkie De Jong, teenage captain Matthijs De Ligt and the Brazilian winger David Neres emerged as stars during the tournament, but there are fears now that the side will be dismantled with bigger clubs willing to sign their best players.

“My thoughts are that we thought Ajax had achieved a certain level of maturity, and they didn’t,” Mourinho said.

“They showed in the second half that there is still naivety in that team, and I think that the philosophy lost against the strategy.

“The philosophy brought Ajax to a disposition of playing fantastically well and arriving with one and a half feet in the final, but then the strategy won.

“We saw many examples in their attacking situations, we had other situations where (Daley) Blind and De Ligt were outside. The basic thing you do when you have an advantage is to keep your balance all the time, never imbalanced.

“The balance starts with the defensive line in position and after that a certain number of players always behind the ball.

“But they stuck with their philosophy, they played the second half like they were playing against Vitesse in the Dutch league.

“They played like it was a group-phase game, or one more game in their own league.”

Louis Van Gaal, another former United manager who guided Ajax to Champions League glory in 1995, was also critical of the way his former club surrendered the initiative against Spurs.

“This defeat was completely unnecessary,” Van Gaal was quoted as saying by Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

“At half-time there was nothing wrong with a 2-0 lead.

“In the second half, Tottenham took more and more risks and more and more attackers entered the field.

“Ajax made the wrong choices in possession of the ball in that phase.”

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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