Chelsea 1 Eintracht Frankfurt 1 (2-2 agg, 4-3 on penalties): Kepa the shoot-out hero in tense semi-final
Kepa Arrizabalaga saved two spot-kicks as Chelsea squeezed into the Europa League final with a 4-3 penalty shoot-out triumph over Eintracht Frankfurt after second leg of their semi-final tie finished 1-1.
The villain of the dramatic EFL Cup final defeat to Manchester City turned hero on Thursday, denying Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia after Cesar Azpilicueta's saved attempt left the hosts with work to do.
David Luiz and Jorginho also made amends for their misses at Wembley and it was left to Eden Hazard, featuring in perhaps his final Stamford Bridge appearance, to stroke in the winner and send Maurizio Sarri's men into a date with Arsenal in Baku on May 29.
Luka Jovic earlier cancelled out Ruben Loftus-Cheek's first-half opener to force a 2-2 aggregate draw and additional 30 minutes, but the Bundesliga club fell short as Chelsea ensured a second all-English final in Europe's top competitions.
Sarri felt Chelsea should have had a penalty as early as the 11th minute following Danny da Costa's nudge on Loftus-Cheek.
The appeals went unheard and Da Costa almost rubbed salt into the wound with a rasping volley that Kepa tipped over the crossbar.
Loftus-Cheek had the last laugh, the midfielder gliding unnoticed onto Hazard's intelligent pass and finishing coolly across Kevin Trapp in the 28th minute.
Frankfurt had shouts for handball against Mateo Kovacic waved away after the restart but Jovic soon gave them reason to celebrate.
The striker chested the ball down to Mijat Gacinovic, raced in behind David Luiz to receive the return pass and clinically finished past Kepa.
Adi Hutter's men got on top after the equaliser and received another boost when Andreas Christensen limped to the bench, with Sarri preferring Davide Zappacosta to Gary Cahill as his replacement.
Extra time beckoned but first substitute Sebastien Haller saw two chances cleared off the line, first by David Luiz and then Zappacosta.
Azpilicueta wheeled away in celebration five minutes from the end but referee Ovidiu Hategan deemed the defender to have illegally knocked the ball out of goalkeeper Trapp's hands.
The captain's mood nosedived when the German then denied him with the fourth effort of the subsequent shoot-out, but Kepa came to his Spanish compatriot's rescue and Hazard fittingly booked the Blues' place in their second Europa League final in seven seasons.
What does it mean? Hazard in sight of dream ending
Sarri, who is yet to win a major trophy, could end a turbulent first season in charge with Champions League qualification secured and the Europa League stowed away at Stamford Bridge.
If that should transpire, it might just make for a fairytale finish for the talismanic Hazard.The Belgium star is widely expected to join Real Madrid in the upcoming transfer window and doing so after snaring European silverware would be a fitting way to depart.
Kepa repays debt
The most expensive goalkeeper in the game heaped a pile of pressure on his coach when he refused to be substituted amid bizarre scenes in the EFL Cup final in February.
His penalty shoot-out pedigree has become apparent, though, and two crucial saves here will have surely smoothed over any lingering ill-will towards the 24-year-old.
David Luiz opens door to Eintracht response
He is the established, senior centre-back in a Chelsea defence already shorn of the injured Antonio Rudiger, but David Luiz let his team down early in the second half.
The 32-year-old seemed to completely forget about Jovic's existence and was punished for his moment of ball-watching. Christensen's forced withdrawal later in the match and Sarri's refusal to give Cahill another send-off raises further questions over the composition of Chelsea's back four.
Key Opta Facts
- This is the first time that all four places in the Champions League/European Cup and Europa League/UEFA Cup finals will be filled by one country.
- Chelsea have won each of their last four penalty shoot-outs at Stamford Bridge, with this their first in European competition at home.
- Chelsea have reached their first major European final since the 2013 Europa League, when they beat Benfica 2-1 under manager Rafael Benitez.
- Chelsea have never lost a home game against German opponents in all competitions (W7 D3).
Chelsea, already assured of a top-four finish in the Premier League, conclude their domestic duties away to Leicester City on Sunday, the same day as Frankfurt's home meeting with Mainz in the Bundesliga.