A spirited draw for Gunners and Blues
Written By: Robert Halter
Arsenal kicked off the New Year against London rivals, Chelsea at the Emirates stadium. In the sixth minute, after N’Golo Kante appended his French compatriot, Alexandre Lacazette, a free kick from Alexis Sanchez, clipped off Blues captain, Gary Cahill, at the top of the wall, and spun over. But a golden chance fell to Alvaro Morata, a minute later, as from a long ball forward by Victor Moses, a stranded Calum Chambers was brush aside by Morata, but with just Petr Cech to beat, he steered his shot wide of the right post. But lady luck went against Arsenal, when Mesut Ozil found Sanchez, whose low strike was pushed by the hand of Courtois against the inside of the left post and then rolled onto the inside of the right post before a relieved Courtois, collected the ball. Midway through the first half, Ozil opened up space for Lacazette, whose well timed low effort, was turned behind the bottom right post, at full stretch by Courtois. On twenty seven minutes, an incisive through ball by Cesc Fabregas, cleared the path for Tiemoue Bakayoko, whose rising shot, was pushed over by the trailing arm of Cech. On thirty seven minutes, a clumsy challenge by Granit Xhaka on Bakayoko, resulted in a free kick on the edge of the d, which then drifted over by Marcos Alonso. But the Gunners pressed soon after, with a ball across by Xhaka, which was met first time by Ozil, and narrowly past the right post. When Kante won the ball off Ozil, there was then a combination move as Fabregas switched play with Hazard, before racing forward and striking his shot narrowly over, just before half time. In the fiftieth minute, Fabregas created space for Hazard, who was denied by the out stretched leg of Cech, before the ball was put back in from Bakayoko, and a looping header by Alonso, was clawed behind by Cech, at the right post. Although Arsenal threatened again when a cross by Ainsley Maitland-Niles, was put over by the head of Sanchez. But the Gunners then produced a four way move with Jack Wilshere combining with Ozil before Sanchez supplied Lacazette, whose shot was stopped at close range by Courtois. The Blues made the first change of Davide Zappacosta for Moses. On fifty eight minutes, as Kante’s strike spun off Xhaka, a cross by Alonso clipped Shkodran Mustafi, before the ball was pushed clear by Cech. The Gunners edged closer as Lacazette combined with Ozil, only for Cahill, to clear the danger zone. But finally the Blues resistance broke, as Ozil created the move with Rob Holding and then Chambers opened the way for Wilshere, who blazed the ball into the top left corner. Arsenal pressed once more as Ozil and Sanchez set up Lacazette, whose crisp strike was kept out by Courtois at the bottom right corner. Although on sixty seven minutes, Hector Bellerin struck the heels of Hazard, in the area, and referee, Anthony Taylor, awarded the Blues a spot kick, which Hazard converted into the middle of the goal. On seventy minutes, when Fabregas won the ball off Xhaka, after breaking free, Morata scuffed the ball over having brushed Mustafi, to one side. Fabregas was then taken off for Danny Drinkwater. Arsenal later changed Lacazette with Danny Welbeck, before Chelsea took off Hazard for Willian. But it was Chelsea that struck another blow, as from Willian’s long range pass, Zappacosta turned past Maitland-Niles before Alonso beat Mustafi to the ball, and drove the ball into the centre of the net on eighty four minutes. Arsenal soon took off Chambers for Theo Walcott. However in the second minute of stoppage time, the Gunners drew level, when from Mustafi’s cross, from the aerial threat of Welbeck, the ball was poorly put back out by the head of Alonso, and a right footed effort by Bellerin was struck high into the top left corner. In the final piece of action, a long ball by Cesar Azpilicueta, set Morata through on goal, whose shot was parried by Cech, before the crossbar was rattled by a fierce connection from Zappacosta but the game remained tied at two goals each.