Chelsea Slug Out A Draw At The Emirates
The first of three games Chelsea have with Arsenal took place at the Emirates this evening. With the Carabao Cup double header due later in the month, this game was always going to be viewed as the most important.
Both sides started with strong starting XI`s. Games between the two clubs, in the past, have been feisty affairs. Chelsea have had David Luiz, Pedro and Victor Moses dismissed in recent games.
Arsenal kicked off the game and for the first ten minutes the two teams were like boxers, eyeing each other up. It was a pacey start though, both sides created chances as the game ebbed and flowed between ends.
A mistake in Arsenal`s backline allowed Alvaro Morata, who`d dropped into space in his own half, to have a run on Petr Cech, as the Spaniard neared Chelsea`s ex No.1, he stabbed the ball wide of the goal. It should have been 1-0.
A low ball into the box by Victor Moses also saw Morata get close to clipping the ball at Cech`s feet. Straight up the other end and Thibaut Courtois was called into action. He superbly pushed away an Alexis Sanchez effort that rebounded from post to post, along the goal line and into his arms. He celebrated like he`d scored, and why not. Another diving save from Alexandre Lacazette followed shortly after.
The first 25 minutes belonged to Arsenal, Chelsea had shown touches of promise but it was the Gunners making most of the running. One positive for Chelsea, was when Eden Hazard had the ball, which wasn`t that often, the Arsenal players were terrified to touch him. Another positive was Tiemoue Bakayoko having a shot on target.
First yellow card of the game went to Arsenal`s Jack Wilshere who went in late on ex-Arsenal man Cesc Fabregas. An unusual tactic, if it was a tactic, that Antonio Conte was employing was his use of Bakayoko. The big Frenchman was often the furthest Chelsea player forward. Could Baka become a box-to-box midfielder? He has a little way to go before he reaches the heights of Frank Lampard.
It was the big man who won a free-kick that gave dead ball specialist Marcos Alonso, his first sight on goal. It was right on the edge of the box and you could say it was too close to the goal. As it turned out, that was the case, as Alonso fired the ball into the stand behind the goal.
Second yellow card of the game was a reversal of the first, Fabregas on Wilshere, the Spaniard was harshly carded for simply going for the ball as Wilshere tumbled over his leg.
On the stroke of half-time N`golo Kante broke up play and set Chelsea on break, neat play by Hazard saw him him back heal the ball for Fabregas to fire wide.
In the first half Chelsea didn`t show enough composure in front of goal, it they were to get a result that would have to change in the second period. With the chances they`d had, Arsenal seemed almost bound to find the net at some point.
There were no changes for either side going into the half. The first real chance of the half came for Eden Hazard a Fabregas through ball allowed Hazard a run at Cech and he fired the ball low which Cech saved with his legs. Minutes later the Czech keeper got down well to push a goalbound Alonso header away after the Spaniard gave it the 'full Kevin Keegan`.
At the other end, Tibo saved once again from Lacazette, whilst, Jack Wilshere was lucky to stay on the field, being fortunate to not get another yellow for simulation, on the edge of Chelsea`s box.
Antonio Conte made his first substitution on 57 minutes, taking off the ineffective Victor Moses and replacing him with Davide Zappacosta. In a game that was all about the keepers, Courtois had no chance with the effort that eventually saw Arsenal take the lead.
Jack Wilshere fired the Gunners ahead, giving the Belgian no chance as the ball smashed into the net. The irony of the scorer being, that he shouldn`t have been on the pitch.
The lead didn`t last long though, Eden Hazard was fouled in the penalty area and it was the Belgian captain, who calmly stepped up and slotted past Cech. On the touchline Arsene Wenger was apoplectic with rage, as angry as Conte should have been for Wilshere`s goal. Swings and roundabouts Arsene>
Morata had another one on one with Cech that he again failed to convert, although he had been pushed wide of the goal.
It was a tense, as well as an intense London Derby, it was edge of the seat stuff. Both sides were pushing for a win. Conte replaced Fabregas with Danny Drinkwater. As ever, it was Eden Hazard who was the main provider of Chelsea chances, a deft back heel played in Morata, who ran at goal and he cross was cut out by Cech with Hazard close by.
All that made Conte`s final switch, all the more strange….or did it... Willian came on Hazard. Within two minutes Chelsea led. Willian played a crossfield pass to Zappacosta, who fired a cross into the box, that Marcos Alonso somehow managed to direct into the Arsenal goal. The nervy game was becoming an exceptionally nervy game. Arsenal still pressed. There were four minutes of added time. It was torture for a Chelsea fan, this one anyway.
The inevitable happened with three minutes left, the ball flew out of Chelsea`s penalty area and fell to Hector Bellerin, who stroked the ball past Courtois.
Chelsea had a chance to win the game from the re-start when, once again, Morata found himself facing down Petr Cech. Once again the Spaniard fluffed his lines. The rebound though, came to Davide Zappacosta, who smashed an effort on to Cech`s crossbar. It was Arsenal then, that pressed for a winner, fortunately it didn`t come.
So often these games between the top six sides are a bore-fest, that was certainly not the case with this one. This was a Premier League game to be proud of. The only downside being Alvaro Morata`s inability to finish.
The two teams meet again at Stamford Bridge, in the semi-final if the Carabao Cup at Stamford Bridge. It surely won`t be as intense.
Final score 2-2