EPL – Arsenal 1 Chelsea 2
In the blue corner, Chelsea’s band of supporters needed no invitation to offer a reminder of who is London’s top dog in terms of the European Cup. On the pitch, their players made the point that they are serious about re-asserting themselves in the Premier League as well. They are certainly well placed to make a big improvement on last season’s sixth place.
In inflicting Arsenal’s first defeat of the season, Chelsea consolidated their position as Premier League pacesetters. They were helped along the way by some slack defending by Arsenal, for whom Laurent Koscielny started at the expense of the previously ever-present, and consistently calm, Per Mertesacker. Two set pieces from the assured boot of Juan Mata did the damage. Fernando Torres dispatched the first with cunning; Koscielny helped the second on its way. It was enough.
Arsenal had been frustrated by their weakness at a set piece to give Manchester City the lead last weekend. There was not much tangible improvement here. They didn’t pose enough threat to claw their way back from two crucially loose moments. In fact, they were flat enough to ensure the home support did not even rouse much sustained hostility for John Terry, who had an untroubled 90 minutes.
Chelsea took the lead from a free kick that exposed how Arsenal still need to iron out problems concerning their organisation when facing dead balls. Mata’s delivery arced towards the far post, over a leap from an unmarked David Luiz, and Fernando Torres got the better of Koscielny to supply a clever, instinctive finish. He wrapped his leg around the defender to clip a volley past Vito Mannone.
Torres ought to have given Chelsea an even more emphatic advantage moments later when he ghosted behind the dawdling Koscielny and bore down on Mannone’s goal. A 2-0 scoreline felt inevitable, only for the Spaniard to kick thin air instead of the ball. A let off for Arsenal. There were other scares before half-time as the inventive Oscar and Eden Hazard crafted chances, while Torres grazed the side netting.
Chelsea were relaxed, barely stretched as Arsenal strained to find their passing rhythm. Home frustrations were evident when Thomas Vermaelen lumped in a hopeful shot from 40 yards out.
They did keep plugging away, though, and were rewarded when Gervinho – hitherto giving a fairly ineffective impression of a false nine – took a deft touch to swivel on to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pass and drilled the equaliser high into Petr Cech’s net.
Chelsea’s determination was palpable. They emerged after half-time keen to make the most of the combination of their three tricksters –- Mata, Oscar and Hazard – floating behind the runs of Torres. It was not so pleasing on the eye, though, to see Luiz trying to win a penalty with an act of blatant simulation, for which he was booked.
Lukas Podolski needed to get more involved and his driving run opened up Chelsea, only for Santi Cazorla to slice his effort wide.
Chelsea eased back in front with another set piece that left Arsenal cursing. Mata’s delivery was again excellent, but Koscienly’s miserable afternoon worsened when the ball skimmed his shin and past Mannone at the far post.
Arsenal mustered a handful of attempts to rescue a point. Podolski’s goalbound header was clawed out by Cech. Kieran Gibbs’ dangerous cross was diverted by Luiz. Wenger sent on Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, but although Giroud had three moments to seize the day, his Premier League pressures persisted. The Frenchman tested Cech with his first attempt, struck the crossbar (although the linesman had raised a flag) and, in stoppage time, he dinked past Cech, only to angle his shot against the side netting.
Chelsea may be changing, but the evergreen Cech again proved his worth. – Guardian (Football Column) UK