VALENCIA: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat-trick as Arsenal reached the Europa League final early this morning with a 4-2 win over Valencia and a 7-3 triumph on aggregate.
Alexandre Lacazette was also on target as the Gunners became the third English Premier League side to reach a European final this week following Liverpool and Tottenham’s epic Champions League semi-final fightbacks.
Arsenal’s last appearance in a continental final was their 2006 Champions League loss to Barcelona.
In the other semi-final, Chelsea and Eintracht Frankfurt were locked 1-1 (aggregate 2-2) at the time of going to the press early this morning.
Meanwhile, Arsenal coach Unai Emery last night said he was more keen to focus on winning the Europa League than worry about securing a place in next season’s Champions League.
The Londoners have practically blown their chances of finishing in the Premier League’s top four after Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion, meaning winning Europe’s second prize is their only realistic route back into the Champions League.
But Emery, who guided Sevilla to three consecutive Europa League crowns, said returning Arsenal to Europe’s elite competition for the first time in three years was not on top of his wish list.
“The Europa League is a trophy and we are playing in it to win it,” Emery said.
“The second motivation for us is that it will give us a Champions League place. We know it’s going to be difficult, and we have no chance in the Premier League, but with ambition and a strong mentality we know we can win.”
Emery spent four seasons as coach of Valencia, leading them to top-three finishes in La Liga in his final three campaigns, yet he never endeared himself to the club’s famously demanding supporters because his side never challenged for trophies.
He also angered the club for an exuberant celebration when his Sevilla side knocked Valencia out of the 2014 Europa League semi-finals with a last-gasp goal from Stephane Mbia.
“I enjoyed myself a lot here and I put my heart into my work, although I’m left with the sensation that I should have fought for a trophy here,” Emery said.