Chelsea and Arsenal played out a goalless draw in their EFL Cup semi-final first leg two weeks ago at Stamford Bridge. The Blues had plenty of opportunities to take a lead into the second leg of the tie but squandered several good chances.
They travelled to the Emirates for the second of the two matches but were beaten 2-1 by the Gunners with an own goal from Antonio Rudiger and a Granit Xhaka tap-in after Eden Hazard had opened the scoring inside seven minutes.
Fast start before the game cools
It took less than 10 minutes for the second leg to provide something we didn’t see in the first: a goal. Chelsea found the back of the net twice in the first seven minutes, the first was ruled out for offside as Pedro had just strayed ahead of the Arsenal backline before angling a great header under the crossbar. Less than a minute later, Hazard scored a legitimate goal, slotting precisely past David Ospina after being slipped through by Pedro. It was exactly what the visitors deserved with the hosts failing to wake up.
The scores were level five minutes later after a period of Arsenal knocking on the door. Willy Caballero was forced into a double save from Jack Wilshere and then Nacho Monreal before keeping the former out again from a tight angle. It was actually one of the Argentine goalkeeper’s own defenders who turned the ball past him and into the net as a Monreal header bounced off Marcos Alonso onto Rudiger’s head before crossing the goal line. Certainly not the best goal you’ll ever see but they all count.
The manic start then slowed down as both sides composed themselves but Chelsea were stung with an injury to their in-form winger, Willian on the half an hour mark. Ross Barkley replaced the pacey Brazilian to make his debut for Antonio Conte’s side. The former Everton man got straight involved in the action and was fouled by Laurent Koscielny and Wilshere in quick succession before slicing down Xhaka moments later.
The first-half then petered out and if it wasn’t for a deflected Mesut Ozil shot, there would have been nothing to mention. His chipped effort almost caught a huge slice of luck but unfortunately bounced agonisingly wide off the far post.
Gunners seize the initiative
A lacklustre opening 45 minutes for the hosts saw them come out fighting in the second-half as they hit the front. Chelsea began to sit back and looked out of ideas or energy with very little attacking movement compared to that in the first-half. Not only did that allow the Gunners more possession and chances but it also limited the Blues’ attacking forays.
The visitors were close to conceding another own goal when Cesar Azpilicueta flicked Alex Iwobi’s low cross over his own woodwork. A huge sigh of relief for Conte as he watched his side struggle to regain their foothold in the game. This was made worse on the hour as Arsene Wenger’s men took the lead. Alexandre Lacazette had run himself into a dead end but his hopeful pass ricocheted off Rudiger’s foot and into the path of Xhaka inside the six-yard box. The holding midfielder, who had ventured forward, clipped the ball over the onrushing Caballero as 50,000 Arsenal fans went wild.
This would have usually given the Premier League champions a kick up the backside but it had the opposite effect as they failed to trouble the Arsenal defence for the remainder of the contest. It was their opponents who came closest to another goal, Iwobi shot straight at the keeper after being was set through one-on-one by Ozil. The Blues’ woeful second period was summed up by Alonso’s 30-yard free-kick which sailed over the bar and was, funnily enough, their best chance of the second half.
Chelsea failed to produce anything in the closing stages and Arsenal secured their place in the Carabao Cup Final, where they will meet Manchester City on the 25th February. Conte will have definitely expected a better performance from his side while Wenger will be over the moon for another Wembley final, which he doesn’t tend to do too badly in.