Saturday’s late kick-off saw one of the biggest games in English football return to the Premier League as Chelsea welcomed the visit of Arsenal. The first half finished 2-2 after the hosts had gone two ahead but despite the Gunners’ best efforts, a one-goal lead was restored in the second half to ensure the points stayed in West London.
A first half of two halves
The big talking point before kick-off was Maurizio Sarri’s decision to start with Eden Hazard on the bench but it didn’t seem such a bad one as the player in his place, Pedro repaid his faith. Following Mesut Ozil’s near post miss, the former Barcelona winger opened the scoring when his countryman, Marcos Alonso found acres of space from Jorginho’s threaded pass. He laid a perfect pass on for Pedro who would’ve struggled to miss with a free 10 yards around him.
Ross Barkley sent a ferocious strike narrowly over the bar from N’Golo Kante’s lay-off which had shown more cracks appearing in the Arsenal backline. Then with his side’s first real chance of the game, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sent, what should’ve been, an easy tap-in flying over the bar after Hector Bellerin’s neat pull-back. The mercurial forward was made to rue that glaring miss less than 60 seconds later.
Almost directly from the goal kick Cesar Azpilicueta sent the ball forward towards Alvaro Morata who was one-on-one with Shkodran Mustafi bearing down on goal. Chelsea’s number nine didn’t panic and slammed the ball into the back of the net with his left foot after turning the Gunners centre-back inside out.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was presented with an opportunity identical to the one missed by his team-mate but like Aubameyang, he couldn’t keep it down, sending it miles over the crossbar. It had once again come from a wideman pulling the ball back towards the penalty spot, something the Blues were struggling to defend.
However, the ex-Dortmund man made amends straight away by halving the deficit with a fantastic drilled strike from the edge of the box. Kepa Arrizabalaga got a hand to it but failed to keep it out due to the immense amount of power. Less than five minutes later, the game was level after Morata was kept out by a great save from Petr Cech.
For the third time in the opening 45, a brilliant chance was carved out from Arsenal where the ball was pulled back to the penalty spot. Although, unlike the other two, this one was despatched as Alex Iwobi fired home from Mkhitaryan’s pass. The scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection of the half but set the second period up perfectly.
A deserved late winner settles the match
The second half began in the same way that the first ended with an end-to-end style, although no real chances were being created as they were prior to the interval. It took nearly 15 minutes for either keeper to be tested with Cech having to be at full stretch to deny Barkley his first Chelsea goal, the kind of stop Blues fans knew their former number one was capable of.
The English midfielder was then replaced by Mateo Kovacic for his debut as Hazard came on in place of an usually quiet Willian. With a quarter of the game left, Sarri’s side were once again dominating and it looked only a matter of time before they retook the lead. Numerous attacks failed to provide the fifth goal with Hazard starting to play more of a starring role.
It was the tricky Belgian who put the ball on a plate for, what turned out to be, the winning goal. His hard work down the left-wing ended with a perfectly-weighted pull-back that was turned in by Marcos Alonso for his third goal against Arsenal. The game became extremely stretched as Unai Emery’s side desperately looked for an equaliser. Their failed efforts repeatedly allowed the hosts to have chances of their own and Olivier Giroud almost profited, seeing three shots saved by his former team-mate in the dying minutes.
The whistle went on the game of the season so far and it ensured that Maurizio Sarri would see his side on six points after just two league matches. Some of the defending was criminal at times but he would’ve been very encouraged by the attacking display. All in all a good afternoon for the Blues.