The first London derby of the year certainly didn’t disappoint and the spoils were shared at the Emirates after it ended 2-2 thanks to some injury-time excitement at both ends.
This left Chelsea in third place in the Premier League 16 points behind leaders, Manchester City, who got back to winning ways with a 3-1 win over Watford. The Blues have now won just one of their last five away matches, coming almost three weeks ago against newly promoted Huddersfield.
Antonio Conte said that his side deserved all three points after going a goal ahead with less than ten minutes remaining in the match. The Chelsea boss brought Eden Hazard back into the starting XI as well as Cesc Fabregas, who was, of course, facing his former employers.
Plenty of shots but no goals
The goalless scoreline at half-time suggested that the first half was a cagey affair but it was far from that. Both sides had chances to score inside the first 20 minutes as Alvaro Morata found himself one-on-one with Petr Cech after Calum Chambers thought the Czech keeper was coming to claim the ball. The Chelsea striker dragged the shot painfully wide, much to the humour of the home fans, before Alexis Sanchez was denied by a Thibaut Courtois save and both posts as the Gunners went in search of the opening goal.
The former Atletico stopper and current Real Madrid target was called into action a few minutes later as he got a hand to a low Alexandre Lacazette shot from inside the box. Arsenal’s number 1 was just as busy and had to be alert to a rising drive from Tiemoue Bakayoko.
Explosive second half
The action in the second half followed on from that of the first, as both sides had chances to take the lead. However, it was the hosts who got their noses in front on the 63rd minute after Cech had made two great saves to deny Hazard and Marcos Alonso in very quick succession. The move started with Jack Wilshere, as he found Mesut Ozil. The German then played a very good ball into Rob Holding, who managed to squeeze a pass through to Wilshere. The injury-prone midfielder fired a brilliant left-footed strike into the top corner, courtesy of the post, that left Courtois with absolutely no chance.
They weren’t in front for long and just four minutes later, Chelsea were handed a way back into the match. Hazard’s fast feet were too much for the Gunners’ defence and when his first crossing attempt came back to him from Chambers, Hector Bellerin clipped the Belgian’s heels and Anthony Taylor controversially pointed to the spot. Amongst unrest from the home supporters, Hazard made no mistake, sending Cech the wrong way from the spot to draw the visitors level.
In the 83rd minute, the champions hit the front and a fantastic cross-field ball by Willian found Davide Zappacosta, who managed to get a yard on Ainsley Maitland-Niles. The Italian used that extra yard perfectly to find Alonso’s run across the near post. The Spanish wing-back did the rest as he finished brilliantly with his weaker right-foot.
Unfortunately for the Blues, he wasn’t the only Spanish wide player to score as Hector Bellerin pulled his side level in the second minute of injury time. Shkodran Mustafi had a cross headed out by Andreas Christensen, which was then headed even further out by Alonso. The clearance fell to Bellerin, who beautifully caressed a half-volley into the far corner and hit it with such accuracy that Courtois was left with no chance of keeping it out.
The action wasn’t finished, as Morata was given the chance to redeem his earlier miss, but once again, his shot lacked conviction and meant Cech was able to make a comfortable save. From the rebound, Chelsea were handed a final effort on goal to snatch the winner but Zappacosta’s thunderous half-volley crashed onto the crossbar. This meant the game ended 2-2 and Conte will definitely see it as two points dropped rather than one gained.