Arsenal beat Chelsea to set up Man City
Written By: Robert Halter
After a goalless draw in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi final with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, for the return match during late January at the Emirates stadium, Arsenal had home advantage in their bid to reach the final against Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday, February 25. On five minutes, from a Cesar Azpilicueta cross, a bullet header by Pedro, crashed the net, but was ruled out for offside using the VAR system. Although the Blues took the lead two minutes later, following incisive play as N’Golo Kante supplied Pedro, who slid the ball through to Eden Hazard, whose low left footed strike was drilled into the bottom left corner. The Gunners looked for a quick response with a through ball by Alex Iwobi, and as Blues keeper, Willy Caballero, scooped away Jack Wilshere’s close range effort, he picked up a knock as he fended away Nacho Monreal, from the rebound. However in the twelfth minute, Arsenal drew level, when from a Mesut Ozil corner, a header in the area by Monreal, took a double deflection off Marcos Alonso and then Antonio Rudiger, into the back of the net. On twenty minutes, through a pass by Pedro and flick on from Hazard, the ball was steered wide of the right post by Willian. Then an over the top ball from Mohamed Elneny, bobbled off the knee of Tiemoue Bakayoko, and as Alexandre Lacazette turned in the area, he was blocked by Andrea Christensen and then Blues captain, Azpilicueta. But on twenty four minutes, a reverse cross by Azpilicueta, was latched upon by Pedro, on the left side of the box, and Arsenal shot stopper, David Ospina, was forced to make a close range stop, on what looked a lost cause for Chelsea. After pulling a hamstring, Willian left the field, and Ross Barkley, made his first start for the Blues. In the thirty third minute, Barkley gave away a free kick for a foul on Gunners captain, Laurent Koscielny, and it was taken by Granit Xhaka, who whipped the ball in fiercely from the right, before it struck the back of Hazard, before landing on top of the outside netting. Arsenal pressed again in the fortieth minute, following an assist by Ozil, and in the centre of the area, Monreal’s attempt at goal was saved by Caballero, towards the bottom right corner. The Gunners ended the first half strongly, when a through ball by Wilshere, was met with a curling strike from Ozil, that clipped Christensen, and went narrowly past the far left post. Three minutes into the second half, as Iwobi’s ball was put back from Lacazette, a strike by Xhaka, went high over the crossbar. On fifty eight minutes, from a cross on the left by Iwobi, the ball was hooked out of play by Azpilicueta, while defending in the area. But the Blues buckled on the hour mark, when Ozil found Lacazette, on the right side of the area, and as his ball in the danger zone, clipped the heel of Rudiger, it fell to Xhaka, who drove a left footed strike into the bottom left corner. As the Blues fell behind, Hazard provided Pedro, whose shot in the box, was stopped by Ospina, towards the top centre of the goal. Chelsea soon made a change with Michy Batshuayi for Pedro and later switched Victor Moses with Davide Zappacosta. On seventy six minutes, the out stretched leg of Caballero, kept out a low drive by Iwobi, after a well placed cross by Ozil. Five minutes later, from a ball over by Zappacosta, a vital interception was made by Hector Bellerin, to block Alonso’s strike, in the left side of the area. The Gunners went for fresh legs towards the end when Sead Kolasinac replaced Lacazette and Aaron Ramsey took over from Iwobi. On eighty six minutes, after Zappacosta appended Monreal, a free kick by Shkodran Mustafi was punted forward, and from outside the box, the ball was steered wide of the left post by Xhaka. It was not Chelsea’s night as Alonso ballooned a free kick, following a rash challenge on Barkley by Mustafi, as the 2-1 aggregate semi final win for Arsenal meant they would be facing Manchester City in the 2018 Carabao Cup Final, instead of meeting that day in the Premier League.