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Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal


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Chelsea F.C. 2 - 1 Arsenal

March 30 2008, Premier League, Gameweek 31, Stamford Bridge, West London


Didier Drogba scored twice as Chelsea from a goal down to defeat London rivals Arsenal 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Bacary Sagna had put the visitors ahead with a brilliant near-post header early in the second half, but Chelsea replied through Drogba before the Ivorian completed a remarkable come-back to earn Chelsea three points as well as take them above Arsenal in the Premier League table.

With a poor record against the top sides in the Premier League, it was make-or-break time for under-fire Chelsea coach Avram Grant following an abysmal defensive showcase away at Tottenham in midweek, during which the Blues conceded a 3-1 lead to draw 4-4 in an enticing yet ultimately disappointing affair in North London. Coming into this crunch affair two points behind Arsenal and knowing only a victory could possibly keep them in touch with league leaders Manchester United, Avram Grant elected to make only a single change - to replace Paulo Ferreira with Michael Essien at right-back.

Arsenal were without key midfielder Tomas Rosicky, so Emmanuel Eboue continued on the right wing. Eboue had broken John Terry's foot in the reverse game in December - a 1-0 win for Arsenal at the Emirates - and the Chelsea captain was keen not to let Eboue or former Chelsea captain William Gallas deny them the chance to reclaim their title.

Arsenal were the quicker of the two teams to settle, utilising the width of their 4-5-1 formation. Yet Chelsea were happy to sit back and soak up the early pressure whilst hitting Arsenal on the break with crispy, one-touch passing. Chelsea's midfield, whilst outnumbered, were passing with more conviction than those on the visitor's side, and the tricky and pace of Joe Cole and Salomon Kalou were causing Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna trouble.

William Gallas, central to the feud between Chelsea and Arsenal, was subject to much abuse from the Chelsea fans. The Arsenal skipper had demanded a transfer from Stamford Bridge following the emergence of Ricardo Carvalho as John Terry's centre-half partner in 2006 and had failed to turn up for pre-season training. He was ultimately transferred in a swap deal with Ashley Cole heading to Chelsea. The Stamford Bridge faithful were not willing to forgive Gallas and his threats of scoring an own goal if he ever had to play for Chelsea again. Arsenal fans were taunting Ashley Cole also, though whenever the former Arsenal man touched the ball, the boos of the travelling away support were quelled by the roar of the Matthew Harding Stand.

Arsenal were dominating possession but had made only two efforts on goal. Robin Van Persie had shot wide after losing Essien on the edge of the area before hitting a half-volley from the edge of the area straight at Cudicini. Arsenal were being limited to efforts outside of Cudicini's penalty area by the sturdy Chelsea defence; their attacking skill neutralised by the formidable partnership of Terry and Carvalho.

The best chance fell to Drogba and Chelsea, whose slightly more-direct play was dictating play. Chelsea were passing with the speed and accuracy that their London rivals are so often praised for, and but for a better touch by Didier Drogba when clean-through, the West London team could have taken a deserved lead.

Catching the Arsenal defence unaware, John Terry hit the ball forward from his own half to see Drogba beat the offside trap. However as the Ivorian went past William Gallas, the ball bounced off of his right knee and into the hands of a grateful Almunia. It was a chance for Chelsea to take the lead, and one they may have ultimately regretted.

William Gallas went close for Arsenal, but his far-post flick came off the bar. The goal would not have counted had Gallas found the net for he was in an offside position, though it underlined Chelsea's new-found defensive frailty when it came to defending set-pieces. Eboue and Adebayor had chanced blocked from close range as Chelsea stood firm in the wake of increasing Arsenal pressure.

Ballack had an effort caught by Almunia, the German cutting inside and launching a curling effort to the near post. Chelsea ended the half the stronger side, however, and should have taken the lead on 43 minutes. Salomon Kalou failed to connect to the ball whilst under pressure from Toure before Joe Cole's goalbound volley was blocked by the legs of Almunia, who may have injured himself on the stretch.

Matthieu Flamini had the best opportunity of the opening period of the second half for Arsenal, but his volley was superbly palmed away by Cudicini. The Frenchman hit the ball with ferocious power but the Italian shotstopper did brilliantly to react after the ball came through a crowd of players. At the other end, Drogba would have scored but from the intervention of William Gallas, whose mere presence put the Ivorian off balance.

Moments later, Arsenal were ahead. Fabregas' near-post corner was met by the head of Bacary Sagna and flew in past a surprised Carlo Cudicini. It was Sagna's first goal for his club, but his afternoon was soon turned sour after he injured his ankle clearing the ball during a Chelsea attack.

Ballack should have restored parity but failed to connect with a left-footed volley, allowing Almunia to over-zealously catch a straight-forward ball. But the goalkeeper's athleticism could do nothing to prevent Didier Drogba restoring hope, as the Ivorian lashed home from 12 yards following Frank Lampard's lay-off from Belletti's diagonal ball. Belletti himself had only recently been introduced to the fray, allowing Essien to partner Lampard in the centre of midfield, and the Ghanaian's drive was causing problems for the visitors.

Chelsea were in the driving seat and moments later were 2-1 up. Anelka flicked the ball on to Drogba who controlled and shot on the turn. Almunia got a hand to the ball but couldn't prevent the goal as Drogba claimed his and Chelsea's second of the day. The Ivorian was rampant and could have had a third moments later, only for Almunia to excellently deny him his hat trick at his near post.

Chelsea survived five minutes of stoppage time thanks to brilliant initiative by Cudicini who stole the ball off of Adebayor's head on the one occasion the Arsenal team broke through the defence of Chelsea. The Gunners were soon goners and even their attempts at playing route one football failed to bring them any rewards. The Blues hung on to claim their first league win over Arsenal since 2006 and their first victory against any of the Big Four under Avram Grant.

Gallas, what's the score? Gallas, Gallas, what's the score?

Match Fact : Chelsea are 78 home league games unbeaten.

Chelsea: Cudicini (6), Essien (6), Carvalho (8), Terry (7), Ashley Cole (7), Ballack (5) (Belletti (7)), Makelele (8) (Anelka (7)), Lampard (6), Joe Cole (7) (Mikel (6)), Drogba (8), Kalou (6).

Arsenal: Almunia (6), Sagna (7) (Diaby (6)), Toure (6), Gallas (5), Clichy (5), Eboue (6), Fabregas (5), Flamini (6)(Bendtner (6)), Hleb (5), Adebayor (5), Van Persie (5) (Walcott (6)).

Attendance: 41,824

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Man of the Match : Didier Drogba


Edited by BlueLion
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