Arsenal head coach Unai Emery hailed his “amazing” strikeforce as a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hat-trick and an Alexandre Lacazette goal set up a Europa League final against Premier League rivals Chelsea.
Having led Valencia 3-1 from the first leg, the Gunners were favourites to advance and Aubameyang’s treble eased them into the showpiece, securing a 4-2 win on the night and a 7-3 aggregate success.
Lacazette also got his name on the scoresheet to ensure the pair have scored all of Arsenal’s last eight goals in this tournament between them – with a total of 48 strikes shared across the campaign.
In a week of comebacks by English sides in the Champions League, Aubameyang’s goals made sure Arsenal were not on the receiving end of another at the Mestella.
Despite falling behind to Kevin Gameiro’s 11th-minute effort, the visitors rallied as Aubameyang equalised and Lacazette struck to put them ahead on the night and in control of the tie.
Gameiro, who was part of Emery’s Sevilla side which won three successive Europa League titles, continued his fine scoring run in the competition with another – only for Aubameyang to add gloss to the scoreline with two more efforts.
“I am proud of them,” Emery replied when asked about the impact of Aubameyang and Lacazette.
“Big players can be good strikers but when their commitment is like today, defensively also, to work to help us, it is amazing.
“Each match is different and I think today we showed everybody our character, and also our capacity to be together and struggle in some moments defensively, but also having good moments in attack.
“Against Valencia, not one team this year has scored four goals against them. Only one time, against Atletico Madrid, have they conceded three goals and we did that last week. It’s a very good team, a difficult team, and today we showed we can do that.”
A disappointing home draw to Brighton last weekend all-but ended Arsenal’s hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League.
Emery, who has not lost a knockout tie in this competition since he was in charge of Valencia in 2012, knows he needs to win the same title in Baku on May 29 to seal a Champions League return for Arsenal in his first season at the helm.
Valencia started both legs well and took the lead on each occasion – but forward Rodrigo insists they can have no complaints about losing.
“We’ve had our chances of victory across the two ties but there’s no question that Arsenal have been more efficient and effective than us,” he said.
“There’s no way we can claim that we were unlucky – not when you concede seven times in a semi-final. We believed for as long as possible, but there’s been no injustice in this tie.”
Both Arsenal and Chelsea will receive 6,000 tickets for the final in Baku’s Olympic Stadium – which has an official capacity of 68,700.
Arsenal put out a statement to supporters soon after the final whistle insisting they are working with UEFA to gain a larger percentage of seats to add to the “disappointing ticket allocation”.
“We have been informed by UEFA that both clubs will receive an allocation of just 6,000 tickets each for the match,” the statement added.
“We are in active discussions with UEFA for more tickets for our fans but this disappointing ticket allocation obviously presents us with extreme difficulties in how we allocate tickets to you, our loyal supporters.
“As many of you will be aware, we are proud to have approximately 45,000 season-ticket holders and over 180,000 official members.
“It is inevitable that with an allocation of just 6,000 tickets for the final, there will be thousands of fans who have supported the club for years and been part of our Europa League journey this season, who will be unable to attend this match. This is a disappointing situation.”
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