Limp Arsenal beaten by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge
14:25 04 February 2017
Arsenal’s lingering title hopes were all but extinguished as they slumped to a comprehensive 3-1 defeat at the hands of Premier League leaders Chelsea.
The Blues – who now have a 12-point lead over their London rivals – avenged their 3-0 loss at the Emirates earlier in the season with goals from Marcos Alonso, Eden Hazard and ex-Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas before Olivier Giroud netted a late consolation.
Arsenal were actually first to manufacture some attacking threat at Stamford Bridge, with Mesut Ozil capitalising on a defensive slip to tee up Alex Iwobi, whose drive was deflected behind.
But the Blues sounded a note of warning when they won a free-kick and the marking proved to be less than tight as Gary Cahill got up with ease to head down and over.
And the gaps in Arsenal’s defence were evident just a few minutes later as Pedro whipped a ball into Diego Costa, whose header flashed against the crossbar and sat up for Alonso to nod into the unguarded net.
Hector Bellerin, who took a knock in the process of trying to prevent the goal, was unable to continue, and the Gunners’ reshuffled back line came under further pressure.
Costa evaded both centre-halves before thumping a chance into the side netting, while Alonso set up Pedro for a first-time effort that Petr Cech scrambled behind.
Cech’s counterpart Thibaut Courtois was finally called into action late in the first half, clawing the ball away after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross picked out the head of Gabriel.
But Chelsea were back on the front foot at the start of the second half, with Hazard going close before doubling his side’s advantage with a stunning individual strike.
Collecting the ball on the halfway line, the Belgian brushed off Laurent Koscielny and Francis Coquelin as he zigzagged his way into the box and fired past Cech.
Arsenal briefly glimpsed a way back into the game when substitute Danny Welbeck’s glancing header was turned behind by Courtois and Mustafi nodded wide from the resulting corner, but that flicker of hope was a very fleeting one.
Their miserable afternoon was completed five minutes from time when Cech collected a throw-in and poked it nonchalantly into the path of Fabregas, who looked almost apologetic as he lobbed it over the keeper from the edge of the box - and Giroud’s injury-time header could not disguise the Gunners’ shortcomings.
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin (Gabriel 17), Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin (Giroud 65); Walcott (Welbcck 70), Iwobi, Ozil; Sanchez.