In a thrilling London derby that had it all, Arsenal drew Chelsea 2-2 at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Arsenal, courtesy of a Hector Bellerín wonder-strike, salvaged a late point against Chelsea. A victory would have seen Chelsea move ten points clear of rival Arsenal in the Premier League table.
Arsenal, to the delight of the home crowd, committed to putting Chelsea under constant pressure and getting stuck into their tackles early on. Chelsea, on the other hand, appeared more content with laying back, anticipating mistakes from the Gunners and then springing forward.
It was Chelsea’s Spanish forward, Alvaro Morata, who nearly sprung the Blues in front in the 14th minute.
Morata found himself in on goal after splitting the Arsenal center-half pairing of Calum Chambers and Rob Holding. Morata wasted his chance, pulling his shot wide of Petr Čech’s goal.
A collective sigh of relief from the crowd on-hand at the Emirates was followed up by a gasp just minutes later.
Arsenal winger Alexis Sanchez nearly put the Gunners ahead with a snap-shot inside the Chelsea penalty area. But Thibaut Courtois did extremely well to get a hand to the Chilean’s shot and parry it off the post. Somehow, someway, the shot was kept out of the net as it pinged off both posts.
Alexandre Lacazette displayed his superb hold-up play in the 21st minute, and the Frenchman nearly finished off his effort from atop the Blues’ box. After fending off a blue shirt behind him, Lacazette executed a cool turn before letting off a low-lying shot that was denied by Courtois.
It was end to end action in the first half and both sides traded scoring opportunities. Čech was called upon again a minute later. The Arsenal No. 1 stood tall to thwart Tiemoué Bakayoko who was in on goal.
Chelsea had one final opportunity to go ahead in the 45th minute. Ex-Gunner Cesc Fàbregas ran onto a cheeky flick by teammate Eden Hazard. The Spaniard had a shot from atop the Gunners’ box, but it went over the bar and never really troubled Čech.
A frenetic first half ended in a stalemate, 0-0.
The second half was everything one would expect and yearn for in a London derby.
Čech was the first goalkeeper to be called upon in the 49th minute. Čech’s brilliant foot save on Hazard was followed up by an inspiring dive and save to keep out Marcos Alonso’s header. The Arsenal shot-stopper kept the score level at nil.
Arsenal saw their first opportunity of the second half, and perhaps their best in the match at that point, come in the 52nd minute. It was another sweet turn from Lacazette. The Frenchman saw his shot from close-range stoned by Courtois who made himself big.
Minutes later, in the 62nd, a nice passing play between Lacazette and Özil was once again thwarted by the Chelsea keeper. After passing and weaving into the Blues’ penalty area, Özil saw his pass across the goalmouth snubbed by the big Belgian.
Arsenal found the go-ahead goal in the 63rd minute, courtesy of none other than Jack Wilshere. Super Jack’s off balance shot thumped off the post and into the top corner of Chelsea’s goal.
Wilshere sent the Emirates into pandemonium and fired the Gunners up one nil.
But, as Arsenal fans have come to expect from their side, things went south for the North London club. Referee Anthony Taylor awarded a penalty for Chelsea in the 66th minute, after Bellerín nicked the foot of Hazard who went down rather easily.
Hazard made no mistake and finished off the penalty to equalize for the visitors. 1-1.
In the 70th minute, Morata found himself in on goal again. And, again, the Spaniard’s shot was botched. This time, Morata pulled his shot high and wide right. It was a rather shocking performance from Chelsea’s hitman.
It was another brilliant performance from young Ainsley “Boobie” Maitland-Niles. However, the 20-year-old showed in the 84th minute that he is still green, after being beat to the byline by Davide Zappacosta. Zappacosta then whipped in a dangerous ball, which was buried by a storming Alonso. 2-1 Blues.
Seemingly down and out, Arsenal were bailed out by Bellerín in the 90′ +2′ minute. The Spaniard did well to avenge the penalty he conceded earlier in the match, hammering home a fantastic half-volley to the top corner of Chelsea’s goal. 2-2.
Less than a minute later, Čech stood tall to stone Morata. After springing to his feet, the ex-Chelsea No. 1 could only watch as Zappacosta’s follow-up effort clashed off the cross bar.
2-2 was how this emotional rollercoaster and Pain in the Arse! finished.
Putting my own allegiance to the side, Arsenal was, in my opinion, the better team on the day. However, as Arsène Wenger’s side has shown time and time again, it was the one or two mistakes that ultimately cost them.
Nevertheless, this was a thrilling London derby, an instant classic, and a brilliant match played by two sides who were playing for nothing less than three points.
Jack Wilshere (63′)
Hector Bellerín (90′ +2)
Eden Hazard (67′)
Marcos Alonso (84′)
Čech; Holding, Mustafi, Chambers; Bellerín, Xhaka, Wilshere, Maitland-Niles; Özil, Lacazette and Sánchez
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill, Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso, Hazard and Morata
Arsenal return to Premier League play on Sunday, Jan. 14 when they travel to the Vitality Stadium to face Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth. Kickoff for that fixture is slated for 8:30AM EST.
Check back soon for the latest Pain in the Arse! Oo O O to Be.