Chelsea finally made it past Eintracht Frankfurt to earn a spot in the Europa League final.
The tie was decided via a penalty shootout victory, with the match ending 1-1 after two hours of football.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek captured the opener for Maurizio Sarri’s team inside 30 minutes with a calmly dispatched finish, only to be pegged back by Luka Jovic’s 29th goal in all competitions in the second period.
Kepa Arrizabalaga came to Chelsea’s rescue, saving two successive spot kicks to secure a first European final for the Blues since 2013.
Story of the game
After a frenzied 48 hours for English clubs in Europe, this fixture began in a similar sizzling fashion. Danny da Costa caused the first spark of the evening, meeting Jovic’s cross with a ferocious volley from the 20-yards, only to be denied by Kepa's acrobatic one-handed stop.
Pressure finally paid off for the home side as Stamford Bridge erupted for one of their own. In typical, dazzling fashion, Eden Hazard slalomed his way into space and slotted Loftus-Cheek in on goal with a cut-throat pass. The Englishman had time to slide the ball into the corner of the net for his fourth of the competition, a first since October.
It was no wonder Sarri started Hazard for only the third time in Europe; the Belgian cut and crafted Chelsea together, sowing Frankfurt skipper David Abraham into knots. Hazard was involved again in an elegant Chelsea attack, beginning with Jorginho spinning on the edge of his area and ending with Loftus-Cheek being crowded out by those in white.
Frankfurt came flying out of the blocks in the second half and within four minutes they were level. The last man Chelsea would want to be free in front of goal gave the Germans every inch of optimism as Jovic swept home his tenth in Europe this year.
Roles had been reversed, as the visitors sensed they could snatch something at the Bridge, their hosts clearly rattled by the sudden switch in intensity. Substitute Davide Zappocosta attempted to settle the nerves by forcing an anxious parry out of Kevin Trapp, with a low drive from range.
Chelsea couldn’t break down the German guard, frustration continually growing amongst the fans, having to settle for the additional half-an-hour added on. A tired Blues back-line was forced into desperate defensive clearances, and Sebastian Haller had to be denied twice by a lunge from David Luiz, and then Zappacosta.
But, the Chelsea crowd were up onto their feet in celebration as Cesar Azpilicueta wheeled away with delight having bundled the ball into the net, however referee Ovidiu Hategan had already blown for a foul on Trapp. This would be the closet the Blues could come to taking the lead before the perilously penalty shootout.
It was a nervy penalty shootout in front of the travelling Eintracht fans, who attempted with every Blues spot-kick to put them out of their rhythm. Haller stepped up for the first kick and calmly sent Kepa the wrong way. Ross Barkley was the first to step up for Chelsea and he struck poewrfully beyond the reach of the outstretched Trapp.
As the shootout wore on Trapp was the first to save a penalty, it was from Azpilicueta who bent his effort towards the bottom right-hand corner, but to no avail for the Blue captain.
Fortunately for Chelsea, Martin Hinteregger's spot-kick was saved awkwardly by Kepa's legs as he stood firm in the centre of the goal, and the Spaniard then saved 117th minute substitute Goncalo Paciancia's penalty low down to his right.
It was then up to the one and only Hazard to ensure an all English Europa League final, and as you can already imagine the Belgian oozed confidence and sent Trapp the wrong way to take Chelsea to meet Arsenal later this month in Azerbaijan.