Home SPORTS Chelsea narrowly escaped, wins Ein Frankfurt 4-3 by penalty shootouts: 5 talking...

Chelsea narrowly escaped, wins Ein Frankfurt 4-3 by penalty shootouts: 5 talking points as Blues reach final

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Chelsea players line up before the penalty shootout (Image: REUTERS) (Thurs. 9/5/2019).

Eden Hazard scored the winning penalty to send Chelsea into the Europa League final against Arsenal .

Chelsea appeared to be in the driving seat from the first leg after a 1-1 draw in Germany. And Ruben Loftus-Cheek slotted home from Eden Hazard’s pass to seemingly put the Blues on course for the final.

But they were caught out by Real Madrid target Luka Jovic as he levelled the scores for Frankfurt. Jovic’s strike sent the tie to extra-time and Frankfurt nearly went ahead when substitute Sebastien Haller’s effort was hacked off the line by David Luiz.

There was to be no third goal as the tie went to penalties before Cesar Azpilicueta was denied by Kevin Trapp.

But Martin Hinteregger fired straight at Kepa before the Chelsea stopper saved from Goncalo Paciencia – and that set the stage for Eden Hazard to win it.

Here are five talking points.

1. Loftus-Cheek staking his claim

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has arguably flourished more than any other Chelsea player under Maurizio Sarri and another goal here against Frankfurt helped cement his best season in the blue shirt.

And while there will be few winners at Stamford Bridge from Chelsea’s transfer ban – if the Court of Arbitration for Sport doesn’t suspend it while they wait for their case to be heard – then Loftus-Cheek will be one of them.

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He’s going to get more game time anyway next season but if the club are unable to bring in other players then even more will be expected from him.

It’ll be a good thing for the player, Chelsea’s academy and, hopefully, for England.

2. Kepa proving his worth

Kepa Arrizabalaga’s antics at the EFL Cup final now seem a distant memory and credit the keeper for that.

He has been excellent ever since boss Maurizio Sarri returned him to the side after dropping him for the game that followed his show of petulance.

Chelsea ’s progression to the Europa League final owes much to his form and not least the two saves he made in the penalty shootout.

Plenty of other managers would have thrown the Spaniard under the bus if they’d been put in the position he put Sarri in.

But hindsight suggests both handled the aftermath of the incident perfectly.

3. Hazard fails to shine in Europe

Eden Hazard has been Chelsea’s main man again this season and, boy, will they miss him if – or when – his move to Real Madridis finally agreed this summer.

But despite his good form his stats in the Europa League have not backed up his importance to the club in this competition.

In fact, his assist for Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s opener was the first he has been credited with during this campaign.

Then again, he did pop up with the winning penalty.

4. Sarri set to stay?

Maurizio Sarri has had a turbulent first season at Stamford Bridge but he isn’t giving the impression of a man who wants to leave Chelsea anytime soon.

A fortnight ago he made a passionate plea to the Chelsea board to be given another season and, writing in his final programme notes of the campaign, he reiterated his desire to stay.

The Italian wrote: “We have had some great moments, big wins, difficult days and tough opponents but we are here at the end of the season with so much to play for and so much to look forward to.

“We have laid the foundations and we have to continue to build something now.”

5. Cahill snubbed for farewell

Gary Cahill said his farewells to Stamford Bridge at the weekend but it looked for a moment like he might get his chance of one last run-out when Andreas Christensen went down.

Maurizio Sarri showed no room for sentiment – not that he has done at all with Cahill this season – and sent on Davide Zappacosta instead, moving Cesar Azpilicueta into the middle next to David Luiz.

How Azpilicueta finished the full game only referee Ovidiu Hategan will know.

The Spaniard was shown only a yellow for a poor, poor challenge on Mijat Gacinovic that probably deserved the strongest sanction.

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