Chelsea test Arsenal title credentials
Written By: Robert Halter
Chelsea were unbeaten in their previous eight Premier League games against Arsenal and the Gunners were yet to score against the Blues in the last eight hours and two minutes of league encounters ahead of their clash at the Emirates stadium, late January. In the second minute, a miss kick by Joel Campbell, squandered a good delivery by the captain for the day, Theo Walcott, into the area. But a minute later, a sloppy clearance by Laurent Koscielny was latched upon by the Blues midfielder Oscar, whose strike at goal was turned behind at his near post by the Gunners shot stopper, Petr Cech, as he faced his former club. On nine minutes, after a one two with Campbell and Olivier Giroud, the ball went through to Mathieu Flamini, who slipped in the box while in a good range of the target. Although on fourteen minutes, former Arsenal captain, Cesc Fabregas, lead the Blues movement and from his ball to Cesar Azpilicueta on the left, a low cross found Willian, whose first shot cannoned against Per Mertesacker, before Willian struck the rebound straight into Cech. The Gunners pushed forward a minute later with Walcott but from his lay off, Giroud struck an effort high and wide. But after Walcott had a penalty appeal turned away as his strike hit John Obi Mikel, on eighteen minutes, the Blues broke away with Willian and as Diego Costa charged through, a lunging reckless challenge on him by Mertesacker, received a straight red card for the Arsenal centre half from referee, Mark Clattenburg, as the resulting free kick by Willian, counted for nothing. It meant with a defender down that the Gunners had to sacrifice Giroud for Gabriel Paulista. It was to prove costly midway through the first half, as Nemanja Matic’s low left wing cross was touched across by Costa to Ivanovic on the right flank, and as the ball was played back to Costa, he struck the ball sweetly past Cech, as Paulista was left helplessly on the floor. On twenty eight minutes, a deep cross by Ivanovic on the right deceived Hector Bellerin at the back stick, but Costa was unable to connect with the ball properly, as he steered the ball wide. On forty one minutes, after Costa combined with Willian, after racing into the box, Costa forced Cech to parry the ball behind for a corner, which was taken by Willian and met with a cushioned header by Ivanovic which was cleared off the line from Nacho Monreal while Cech stayed rooted next to him. The Gunners ended the first half with Flamini hooking the ball above the crossbar from Ramsey’s over the top delivery. On fifty six minutes as Fabregas slipped while being barged into by Koscielny in the area, the Gunners then brought on Alexis Sanchez for Campbell. On sixty three minutes, after Fabregas clipped the heels of Ramsey, there was mayhem in the Blues penalty box as Thibaut Courtois flapped at a clearance and as Azpilicueta poorly played the ball back, the final block by Kurt Zouma, cleared the danger from Paulista. The Blues goal scorer Costa picked up a hamstring injury while appended by Koscielny and was replaced with Loic Remy. On seventy minutes from an assist by Oscar, a snap shot by Fabregas was collected by Cech, and then three minutes later, after combining again with Oscar, a low cross by Fabregas was smothered from Cech. Arsenal then switched Walcott with Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain while Chelsea brought on Eden Hazard for Oscar. In the eighty third minute, after Hazard barged over the top onto Ozil, from the resulting free kick by Ozil, the ball was spilled by Courtois but Arsenal were unable to pick up the loose pieces, and then three minutes later from a Bellerin cross, first Oxlade-Chamberlain had a miss kick and then Flamini’s flick was held onto by Courtois for safety. In stoppage time, Hazard ran through and left the final pass for Willian, who steered the ball across the face of goal, but it was the Blues left celebrating at the end with a 1-0 victory over title contenders Arsenal for an unlikely league double over the Gunners, who were ten places above Chelsea in the table.