Chelsea 1 Eintracht Frankfurt 1 (2-2 agg, 4-3 on penalties): Kepa the shoot-out hero in tense semi-final

By Sports Desk May 09, 2019

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.

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  • Learning to get used to external factors! - Laporte leads City confusion over VAR Learning to get used to external factors! - Laporte leads City confusion over VAR

    Aymeric Laporte and several of his Manchester City team-mates have expressed frustration over Gabriel Jesus seeing a late strike against Tottenham disallowed by VAR.

    City and Spurs were drawing 2-2 at Etihad Stadium on Saturday when Jesus struck in added time, firing into the bottom-right corner from inside the box.

    But celebrations were cut short by VAR with replays showing the ball hit Laporte on the arm during the build-up - and the goal was duly disallowed.

    A frustrated Pep Guardiola told Sky Sports "they need to fix" VAR, City having seen video replay decisions go against them in a game with Spurs for the second time this year following April's Champions League drama, when Raheem Sterling had a goal disallowed for offside.

    And Guardiola's players steadily followed suit on social media following the game, led by Laporte.

    "Tough game! Learning to get used to external factors! Keep working!" the centre-back posted on Twitter.

    Jesus was visibly upset by the call, despite referee Michael Oliver attempting to calm him down on the field.

    "Great game, lads. Well played, but unfortunately we didn’t get the win," the Brazil striker said. "We scored the goal we needed, but....."

    Kyle Walker was at fault for the second Spurs goal, losing Lucas Moura in the City box, but he also pointed a finger of blame at the technology.

    "Vary frustrating today. But both teams fought well," he said on Twitter, with a deliberate typo. "Well done to Spurs. Always good to see the boys and fans."

    Ilkay Gundogan, meanwhile, agrees with Guardiola's suggestion that rules involving VAR need to be amended for the good of the game.

    "Today's VAR decision is really hard to take," the midfielder wrote on social media.

    "Any attacker that commits handball, intentional or not, is now ruled a free-kick?? And if you’re defending it’s fine?? It only disadvantages the attacking team.

    "In my opinion, this rule needs to be changed."

  • Lampard not surprised by Mourinho criticism Lampard not surprised by Mourinho criticism

    Frank Lampard was not surprised to face criticism from his former manager Jose Mourinho following Chelsea's heavy loss at Manchester United last weekend.

    Mourinho questioned Lampard's decision to leave a number of experienced players out of his starting line-up at Old Trafford, including the half-fit N'Golo Kante, with Chelsea collapsing to a 4-0 loss.

    The defeat marked an unwelcome start to Premier League management for Lampard, but Chelsea's all-time leading goalscorer does not plan on getting involved in a slanging match with the Portuguese, who coached him at Stamford Bridge.

    "I was very ready for that," Lampard told reporters ahead of Sunday's game against Leicester City.

    "Being a player who played here, we were always competitive for leagues and Champions Leagues. The level of attention and criticism on your performance is inflated as a manager because you take on more responsibility.

    "I wasn't surprised by it. You have to be ready for it. You have to be ready to answer questions. You have to be ready to know what your feeling is. Whether you should say something bad. 

    "My first feeling is can I protect my players? Can I protect my club? Can I protect myself? Because I know we are working with the right intention and in the right direction. I know you have to pick and choose your battles."

    Chelsea also slipped to defeat in midweek as they were edged out on penalties by Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup.

    Christian Pulisic, Olivier Giroud and Kante came into the side as the Blues delivered a much-improved performance in a game that finished 2-2 after extra time.

    Lampard's team had a more solid look about them with Kante in midfield but the 41-year-old wants his tactics to be adaptable.

    "I think it will evolve," Lampard said of his game plan. "I hope so because you need to be thinking to evolve all the time. I don't want us to be a one-trick pony. I want us to have different strengths to our game.

    "Liverpool, for instance, have one of the best front threes in the world [Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah]. We know that. A lot of speed, a lot of quality to hurt you and so we have to think about that and change the approach to do that. I don't think there is one certain shift.

    "What I did love was the way the players took on the information we gave them. There was a really short space [of time] from Manchester United. Then there were a few messages, and they took it on brilliantly.

    "There were generals on the pitch. I thought Jorginho was fantastic the other night. He was constantly talking to people around him. Constantly talking to the back-line to drag them up and playing with quality. They are the players who are the ones that drive when they get out there.

    "That was the most pleasing thing from me - that the spirit and attitude of the players felt really special."

  • Pochettino accepts Tottenham could still lose players Pochettino accepts Tottenham could still lose players

    Mauricio Pochettino accepts Tottenham remain vulnerable to losing players while the European transfer window remains open.

    Although the deadline to sign new players has passed for Premier League clubs, teams on the continent can still add to their squads.

    September 2 is the last day clubs from Europe can buy players, with Christian Eriksen among the Spurs stars linked with exits.

    Eriksen is into the last year of his contract and is reportedly a target for Real Madrid, while Jan Vertonghen's deal is also expiring.

    Pochettino, though, is unwilling to blame uncertainty over his squad for Spurs being outplayed at Manchester City on Saturday, his side claiming a 2-2 draw at the home of the champions after Gabriel Jesus' late goal was disallowed by VAR.

    "I think it's not an excuse. I am not complaining about the situation, only explaining it," he told reporters. "Of course, we still need to wait to see what happens with our squad. Maybe some players are still in a situation where things can happen.

    "We are not a closed squad where nobody is going to move. Maybe nobody will move. The circumstances are that things are still open. The market in Europe makes things difficult in the way that we work and this type of situation doesn't help the coaching staff to create a good dynamic.

    "Of course, we are going to start our sixth season at Tottenham and I think we're world champions at adapting ourselves to different circumstances. It's a great experience. We are going to be one of the best coaching staffs in the world at adapting to circumstances.

    "Today when you play against a team like Manchester City, with all the circumstances we have inside our team, I think 2-2 and a point is massive.

    "Credit to the team and everyone who is working hard, trying to keep going, working, trying to not be focused on the circumstances, just positive, faith and hope. That is massive.

    "I don't know if people realise or not. I don't care about that. Only that the circumstances are not the best and the challenge is massive. So happy because the will of the players, their commitment and with all the circumstances we're trying to get a good result for the club and for our fans."

    City thought they had claimed all three points in added time when Jesus finished well, but the goal was ruled out after a VAR check found the ball hit Aymeric Laporte on the arm in the build-up.

    "I accept now that the VAR is in football. I was a little bit critical in the past," Pochettino added. "That wasn't nice for the people to hear from me. I love football that was 30 years ago or more.

    "Still I am watching football from the past. I love it and the way the referee was the boss. It's not another person who can make a decision. It's up to him if he sees it or not, not whether it was wrong or right.

    "Now we give it to technology and the new era in football. We're going to accept the rules. I will accept in the future because for sure in the future some decisions will be against us. I'm going to accept it in the same way with the same face. The rules are the rules and the VAR is here."

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