Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1
In a highly entertaining London derby it was Chelsea that just about took the honours and the three points.
Team News - Rafa Benitez, once again, shuffled his pack after the disappointing 2-2 draw with Southampton in midweek. Ivanovic was recalled to the heart of the defence with David Luiz missing through illness but the most contentious selection was that of Fernando Torres, a newly shorn Fernando we should add, in place of Demba Ba who was left on the bench alongside John Terry who many expected to start.
First Half - In snowy conditions, at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea got the action underway, attacking the Shed End, and were to enjoy a sparkling forty-five minutes against an Arsenal side that had trouble coping with the pace and movement.
However, for all Chelsea`s dominance it was Arsenal that should have opened the scoring, in the 5th minute, when the Chelsea defence opened up but Giroud could only screw his shot wide and Arsenal were punished almost immediately when Chelsea took the lead.
Ramires won the ball, in debatable circumstances, in a challenge with Coquelien and when a long diagonal ball was played towards Juan Mata the Spaniard produced a piece of brilliant skill to control it before smashing it past Szczesny in the Arsenal goal.
Arsenal could have equalised almost immediately but Cech was on hand to turn around the post a decent twenty-five yard effort from Cazorla. But Chelsea were producing some lovely flowing football and Hazard, after a mazy run, saw his effort turned around the post by the keeper. But, in the 16th minute, Chelsea doubled their lead when good football involving Mata and Torres saw Ramires free on goal, trying to dance around Szczesny, but the keeper pulled him down.
Lampard stepped up and made no mistake from the spot, slotting it home to the keepers left Chelsea continued to create chances and Ramires blasted wide after yet more decent build up play involving Mata before, as the half drew to a close, Torres blasted an effort high and wide after a free kick, given for a foul on Ramires, had been half cleared.
Second Half - If Chelsea had dominated the first half then it was to be a different story in the second half as Arsenal came out all guns blazing. Early efforts from Mertesaker and Walcott were saved by Cech whilst Ivanovic, putting Giroud under pressure, assisted in helping Cech claim a weak looping header from the French forward.
But, in the 58th minute, Arsenal did get back into the game when Cazorla`s lovely ball found the advancing Walcott and his exquisite finish beat Cech comfortably. Arsenal were all over us now and Walcott, minutes after the goal, rolled another shot past the post.
Cole was then penalised for a foul on Walcott but Cazorla`s free kick hit the wall. Finally there was some respite from the pressure as Torres broke superbly only to see a heavy touch give the keeper the chance to come out and collect the ball. Minutes later, on the opposite flank, Torres breaking in the same manner, was reluctant to shoot and his end product pass was poor.
Rafa brought on Bertrand, in place of Oscar, to shore things up and Arsenal has to rely on Szczensy to turn a Ramires shot around the post. Torres saw a low curling shot saved before a ling-busting run by Ramires saw the midfielder unable to engineer a shot.
Rafa made a second substation, bringing on Demba Ba for Torres and the new striker almost gave us a third goal when he rounded the keeper, out wide, only for Vermaelen to clear his shot off the line. With four minutes of normal time left, Cole fouled Sagna on the edge of the area but Vermaelen screwed the resulting free kick low and wide.
With three minutes left Rafa brought on Marin in place of Hazard and Chelsea, facing five minutes of added on time, were left to defend resolutely as Arsenal forced a succession of corners with Cahill, in particular, producing one excellent tackle to deny Walcott.
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole, Ramires, Lampard, Oscar (Bertrand-72), Hazard (Marin-87), Mata, Torres (Ba-80)
Subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, Terry, Ake.
Chelsea Scorers - Mata (16), Lampard pen (16)
Chelsea Yellow Cards - Mata, Cole
Chelsea Red Cards - Nil