A tired and at times uninspired Chelsea held off the challenge from Eintracht Frankfurt by the slenderest of margins to complete an English shutout of Europe’s club competitions.
Chelsea took the lead on the night and in the tie before the half hour mark when Ruben Loftus-Cheek neatly rolled a shot from an acute angle past Kevin Trapp in the Frankfurt goal.
The first leg had ended 1-1 but the Blues started brighter and looked like they may put the tie to bed but after halftime Luka Jovic got Eintracht Frankfurt back into the contest.
Chelsea pressed hard for a winner while Frankfurt looked dangerous on the counter. Kepa was the hero in the shootout but was twice bailed out with goal-line clearances in extra time. David Luiz and Davide Zappacosta covered for the Spanish stopper who was a spectator for two goal-bound shots from Sebastian Haller.
The home side had to come from behind in the shootout after a rushed effort from César Azpilicueta was saved by Trapp to give the German side a 2-1 lead.
Jonathan de Guzman made it 3-1 to Farnkfurt with a well taken kick which Kepa went the right way for but couldn’t keep out. Jorginho kept the deficit to 1 with a calm finish and then it was Kepa’s time to be the difference maker.
The Chelsea keeper got a little lucky as he just got down to stop an effort struck straight at him by Martin Hinteregger but he had more to do when he kept out Gonçalo Paciência’s kick.
Eden Hazard fittingly stepped up to take the decisive penalty and made no mistake in ensuring that all four teams in UEFA competition finals are from the English Premier League.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery enjoyed his side’s 4-2 win over Valencia a whole lot more than Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri did Chelsea’s tumultuous return against the surprise package from the Bundesliga.
Emery is pinning his hopes of an Arsenal return to the Champions League on winning the Europa League final in Baku.
“We couldn’t get the Champions League through the league, but this is another way,” said the Arsenal coach. “Our objective is clearly to go to the Champions League but also this is a trophy. It will not be easy.”
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette, who boast 48 goals between them this season, proved themselves to be a first-class attack in a second-tier competition for the Gunners.
“Auba was unbelievable tonight,” Lacazaette told BT Sport. “We have played badly in the Premier League during 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.”
Chelsea will meet Arsenal in the Europa League final on 29 May in Baku, Azerbaijan.