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Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal


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Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal


Didier Drogba and Alex fired Chelsea to a deserved victory against a resolute Arsenal side as the Premier League champions continued their flying start to the season.

The Ivorian striker scored his thirteenth goal in as many matches against Arsenal to fire the Blues ahead just before half-time, before Alex thumped in a trademark free-kick from fully thirty yards to ensure Chelsea returned to winning ways and stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League.

After their 1-0 defeat at Eastlands to Roberto Mancini's Manchester City, Chelsea were looking to reaffirm their title credentials and were offered the perfect opportunity to do so with a challenging fixture against Arsenal - and Carlo Ancelotti's men did not disappoint. Having seen Manchester United barely hold out for a draw at Sunderland, the Blues were not only able to shrug aside last weekend's defeat but also move four points ahead of the chasing pack.

Such a lead at this early stage is purely academic; the league is neither won nor lost in the opening seven matches, but an excellent return of six victories and an impressive twenty-three goals scored is an ideal start to the new Premier League campaign. Having played two of their title rivals already, there can be no more criticism of Chelsea's allegedly 'easy' run of fixtures.

Many criticised Chelsea for failing to impose themselves against City last weekend - whilst City were excellent, it was a below-par performance from the champions and an instant improvement was needed to tackle Arsene Wenger's Arsenal. A 3-2 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion aside, the Gunners had enjoyed a good start themselves, but once again they found themselves second-best to Chelsea's finesse and stubbornness; both on display to equal measure in a pulsating London derby.

West hosted North as the two team emerged to a cacophony of noise inside a vociferous Stamford Bridge. Arsenal's travelling supporters were in fine voice whilst the Matthew Harding End responded with chorus after chorus.

The match began at a similar break-neck pace and whilst early chances fell to both sides, it was Arsenal who enjoyed the better start. Marouane Chamakh headed wide under pressure from Alex after Bacary Sagna had crossed into the box and then Laurent Koscielny wasted an even better chance as he failed to capitalise on a free header when merely four yards out.

Chelsea were playing a dangerous game; sitting back and soaking up whatever Arsenal threw at them. However this was not without risk - with Arsenal's guile and incisive, quick-tempo passing, the visitors were creating a number of chances and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech had to be at his best to deny Andrei Arshavin with a stunning full-length save to claw the Russian's splendid effort around the post.

The Blues were looking dangerous on the counter-attack but clear opportunities were proving to be few and far-between. Drogba, usually potent from dead-ball scenarios, wasted a free-kick chance in just the second minute and Michael Essien was equally as wasteful when he could only head wide from a corner kick. Chances were aplenty at both ends, and though Arsenal demonstrated great enterprise they found themselves fall foul to Chelsea's ability to suddenly shift through the gears.

The beauty of Chelsea-Arsenal matches is the football on show, particularly since Carlo Ancelotti became the Blues' coach. With both sides capable of playing wonderful, flowing football, it was refreshing to see both teams throw the proverbial kitchen sink at one-another - although it was Chelsea who packed the greater punch.

Such offensive quality was best shown on 39 minutes as the Blues' performance was typified in one fell swoop for the Gunners. Chamakh was disposed brilliantly by the magnificent Ramires, who was enjoying his best performance in a Chelsea shirt since his summer transfer from Benfica. A quick one-two with John Mikel Obi and then a penetrating through ball that split the Arsenal defence in half later, and the hosts had a deserved lead.

Ashley Cole latched on to the pass and instinctively centred to Drogba, who exquisitely backheeled the ball beyond a bemused Lukas Fabianski; bamboozled by Drogba's confidence and audacity. Such a finish is typical of the Chelsea striker and it was matched by his celebration as he impersonated Elvis Presley and sang into the corner flag. Stamford Bridge erupted whilst the Arsenal fans were silenced - their team's good work had been undone in an instant.

The celebrations were magnificent - Drogba then ran and consoled the grieving Ancelotti who had sadly lost his father in midweek, whilst Cole demonstrated his delight in front of the east corner of the Shed End; surely the fact the Arsenal fans were located there was entirely coincidental?

The second half followed the exact same pattern of the first, again leading to the same conclusion. Arsenal were fastest out of the starting blocks and peppered the Chelsea goal with a number of long-range efforts but found themselves unable to beat the Blues' resolute backline. Alex and John Terry were in formidable form and with Cech enjoying a confident display between the posts, the Gunners were finding their task of getting back into the game a formidable one.

However things might have been different but for Ramires' goal-saving tackle on Chamakh inside the area. Of course, the Moroccan attempted to con the referee into awarding a penalty as he had earlier done when colliding with a stationary Petr Cech, but Mike Dean rightly said no. In fact, the referee was brilliant - usually quick to enforce his authority, Dean was letting the game flow and thus the match was panning out to be massively enjoyable.

Chelsea were content to sit back and hold off Arsenal, and then pick opportune moments to maraud forward and attempt to counter. Two such moments came around the hour mark - but both were largely self-inflicted by the visitors. First, Sebastien Squillaci dawdled on the ball and was robbed by Anelka, putting the Chelsea man through. Fabianksi came out and was duly rounded by Anelka, but the Frenchman could only roll the ball into the side-netting. It appeared a poor miss from the angle but in retrospect it could be argued Fabianski had done enough and forced Anelka slightly too-wide and off-balance.

Ashley Cole then lashed the ball into the bottom corner but was ruled offside when Anelka found him with a delightful pass; replays showed he was probably just level and a bittersweet moment for Cole could have been so much more enjoyable. Arsenal - who had just gone close through Chamakh - were again the beneficiaries of the offside flag just minutes later when Ramires was played clean through after brilliant play by Chelsea; who seemed to have shed the shackles and threatened to run riot.

Fabianksi had in fairness played well and could have done nothing about the Drogba goal - but there was nothing any goalkeeper on earth could have done with what came on 85 minutes. Arsenal conceded a free-kick for a foul on Anelka about 30 yards out, and Alex stepped up to send a swerving drive into the top corner with delicious power. The net threatened to tear as it barely managed to contain the ball's fierce velocity and the Chelsea players celebrated with Stamford Bridge elated. The pocket of Arsenal fans in the corner had suddenly decreased in size.

The Pole had been left helpless with the Alex free-kick but did himself no disservice with two fine saves late on as Chelsea looked to add a layer of gloss to the scoreline.

The final whistle blew to end a more-than-satisfactory afternoon of football. Some wonderful attacking play and talent had been on display, but it was the performances of the unsung stars - Mikel and Ramires - that won Chelsea the game. It was a magnificent team performance and Ancelotti can be delighted with his own personal battle with Wenger - it was the fifth consecutive victory over Arsenal for the Blues and a way for the grieving Chelsea manager to console himself after the loss of his father. Our respects go to Giuseppe Ancelotti.


Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic (Ferreira 72), Alex, Terry ©, Cole; Essien, Mikel (Sturridge 88), Ramires (Zhirkov 82); Anelka, Drogba, Malouda

Arsenal (4-4-1-1): Fabianski; Sagna, Squillaci ©, Koscielny, Clichy; Wilshere (Emmanuel-Thomas 80), Song, Diaby (Rosicky 69), Arshavin (Vela 87); Nasri; Chamakh

The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match was Chelsea's number 7, RAMIRES

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