Sunday, December 16, 2007

Arsenal vs. Chelsea: Match Review

Arsenal stayed at the top of the Premier League after defeating Chelsea 1-0 at the Emirates.

The Premier League return of Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, and Robin van Persie saw a dynamic Arsenal team boss possession in the high tension game which saw 10 yellow cards awarded. The Blues put up a good fight, but a mistake from Chelsea keeper Petr Cech led to the only goal of the match in first-half stoppage time.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb; Emmanuel Adebayor

Chelsea: Petr Cech; Paolo Ferreira, John Terry, Alex, Ashley Cole; Mikel John Obi, Claude Makelele, Frank Lampard, Shaun Wright-Phillips; Joe Cole, Andriy Shevchenko

Arsenal started with a 4-5-1 formation, with Alex Hleb playing just off of lone striker Emmanuel Adebayor as a not-yet-match-fit Robin van Persie watched from the bench until the 70th minute.

Chelsea, unlike the Gunners, were missing top scorer Didier Drogba and fellow African Michael Essien, and therefore played with Joe Cole partnering Andriy Shevchenko in an offensive 4-4-2 which Avram Grant had hoped would bring some beautiful flowing football to Chelsea's game.

The first quarter of an hour was frenetic, as both teams maniacally attempted to draw first blood. However, Arsenal's best chance came from a Chelsea player.

Emmanuel Adebayor pressured defender Alex into heading the ball towards Petr Cech, but the Brazilian's header was far too high for the keeper. Chelsea fans breathed a sigh of relief when the ball fell wide, but the chance suggested that the encounter could just as likely be won on a mistake as a moment of brilliance.

A deflected shot from Shaun Wright-Phillips found Manuel Almunia forced into a tight spot minutes later, but a diving save just about summed up the Arsenal keeper's night: brilliant.

Arsenal were beginning to find their passing form, but did little to trouble Petr Cech, only coming close through a free kick from Cesc Fabregas that flew over the bar.

Almunia on the other hand was being constantly tested, and did well to deny a long-range drive from Andriy Shevchenko.

The game began to change after John Terry limped off to be replaced by Tal Ben-Haim following a tackle from Emmanuel Eboue.

On the stroke of half-time former Chelsea defender William Gallas scored the winner. A flailing arm from Petr Cech completely missed the ball, and the Arsenal captain calmly headed the loose ball home, giving Arsenal a lead going into the second half. The keeping mistake looked more characteristic of Paul Robinson than Petr Cech.

Chelsea came out strongly in the second half, but their overly offense only invited lightning-fast counterattacks from the young Gunners.

Almunia once again made a fabulous save as a shot from Mikel John Obi flew towards the corner of the net.

It was then Arsenal's turn for an injury as Emmanuel Eboue was stretchered off after a nasty tackle from Joe Cole. Robin van Persie's entrance made an immediate impact.

After placing a teasing cross across the face of goal, and then stinging Petr Cech's hands, van Persie missed a brilliant chance following some good work from Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Adebayor and Alex Hleb.

The Duthchman then found the back of the net, but had his goal ruled out for an offsides on Rosicky during the buildup.

As Arsenal began to look the stronger side again, Petr Cech made up for his previous error by making a fabulous double save when Cesc Fabregas had looked sure to score.

Emmanuel Adebayor than found the back of the net, but once again had a goal ruled out after having been harshly adjudged to have fouled his marker.

Arsenal fans were relieved when Almunia made yet another amazing save, this time from a Shevchenko free-kick, but were then disappointed as Cesc Fabregas missed a simple chance after being set up by substitute Nicklas Bendtner.

It didn't matter though, as the final whistle blew second later, ending a tense second half which kept Arsenal at the top of the Premiership, and once again proved that the Gunners can contend for the crown.