Chelsea 2 Arsenal 2
It may be another draw for Arsenal, but following a pulsating 2-2 encounter against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge which saw David Luiz receive a straight red card after 26 minutes, not even that scoreline seemed likely following the early exchanges in west London. Luiz clattered into Tammy Abraham as he tried to recover possession after Shkodran Mustafi’s poorly weighted back pass to Bernd Leno.
Unhappy return. David Luiz received a straight red for this challenge on Tammy Abraham
Jorginho slotted past Leno from the resultant penalty and Mustafi looked crestfallen. At that stage, Chelsea were in control and on course to score more. Andreas Christenson headed wide and Antonio Rudiger’s header back across the Arsenal area to Abraham saw the Chelsea forward head straight at Leno. Bellerin had to be alert to clear from N’Golo Kante’s effort, while Callum Hudson-Odoi saw his shot clip Leno’s bar.
However, Mikel Arteta, who has called for higher fitness levels from his players, was heartened by the workmanlike and industrious effort of his players to come back in this London derby and earn a draw when a loss looked more likely. Gabriel Martinelli began the Gunners comeback when he ran from deep in his own half, and then past the last defender Kante after he slipped, to coolly slot past Kepa Arrizzbalaga for the Arsenal equaliser just past the hour mark. Leno made a string of fine saves, none more impressive than his one handed save from substitute Ross Barkley’s looping header in the second half. From the resultant corner however, Chelsea restored their lead.Cesar Azpilicueta stole in from Willian’s pass to beat Leno six minutes from time, and that seemed to be that.
Jorginho strikes Chelsea’s opener from the penalty spot
However, the spirited ten men of Arsenal rallied for Hector Bellerin to curl in a left footed shot from the 18 yard line to restore parity on 87 minutes.. Substitute Michy Batshuayi could have won it for the Blues in time added on, but saw his snatched shot fly wide of Leno’s upright. A point each means that Arsenal remain in tenth spot in the Premier League table on 29 points, ten points off fourth place Chelsea.
Gabriel Martinelli levelled after a run from deep as N’Golo Kante slipped
For Arteta, there was pride in his players and their spirit having played most of the match with a numerical disadvantage.
“I am [proud]. The spirit they showed, the character, the fight and the leadership was there as well. You have to really stand up. When someone makes a mistake, it can happen in football, so someone has to take a red card for him. It can happen. What cannot happen is that afterwards we don’t stand up for him. Every single player did it with belief as well. I could sense it at half-time that they believed they could get back in the game. I wasn’t expecting Hector to score with his left foot obviously, but I’m very pleased,” he said. The Arsenal head coach reserved special praise for Alexandre Lacazette on a night where although he didn’t score, the France striker worked tirelessly for his team.
“Amazing. Amazing. That’s right. He sacrificed a lot for the team. Sometimes he may lack a little bit of energy at the end because he’s doing extra work, but I’m so happy with him.”
Hector Bellerin levelled to make it 2-2 on 87 minutes
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard lamented his side’s home form and spoke of familiar misgivings.
“We know the story here at home. Teams with 11 have defended here like that and we’ve had problems, then with 10 against Arsenal it is understandable, I think they defended their box well. I would say that it is the story of creating a lot, not unbelievable chances, but that can be the way. But at this level when balls are coming across the box, and crosses, whether it be headers, shots inside the box, we need to take them more because one goal always keeps a team in the game,” he said.
Both sides are in FA Cup 4th round action next, with Chelsea travelling to Hull City on Saturday, while Arsenal travel to Bournemouth next Monday