Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea: Captain, leader, legend Laurent Koscielny shoulders responsibility as Gunner boost Champions League hopes
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Arsenal hosted London rivals Chelsea at the Emirates on Saturday evening. Read on for Layth Yousif’s match report.
Arsenal triumphed 2-0 over rivals Chelsea at the Emirates on Saturday evening to boost their hopes of automatic Champions League qualification.
In a superb performance full of determination and character allied with creativity and excellent movement on and off the ball Unai Emery’s Gunners beat the Blues comprehensively.
First half goals from Alex Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny sealed the win while Mesut Ozil was left on the bench with former Blues legend Petr Cech once again substitute.
With Emery confirming to the Islington Gazette earlier this week the veteran Czech shotstopper had informed the club of his decision, before sharing news of his impending retirement at the end of the season on social media - never has a player deserved more respect from both sets of fans during the history of this fixture.
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Maurizio Sarri opted to leave Alvaro Morata out of his 18-man squad altogether although it was heartening to see former Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud named among his list of replacements.
With fifth-place Arsenal sitting six points behind Chelsea who occupied the crucial fourth spot in the table prior to kick-off, Emery admitted to the Gazette after the dismal 1-0 defeat at West Ham a week ago that it would be difficult to qualify for the riches of the Champions League by finishing fourth.
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Defeat against Sarri’s side in a fevered north v west clash in N5 and he could well and truly kiss goodbye to those already faint hopes.
However he can be proud of his side’s efforts as they outplayed and outfought Sarri’s side.
Emery’s team made a flying start full of determination and intensity coupled with flair against their London rivals.
Lacazette played the ball into Aubameyang in the box whose well-timed flick angled inches wide of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s far post with only 180 seconds elapsed.
Moments later Sokratis out-jumped Kovacic in the box to make a firm connection as the ball ball flew just wide before Koscielny had a point-blank header saved by the alert Blues keeper.
They were warnings the visitors failed to heed as during the next move moments later Lacazette fired the Gunners home with an emphatic near post shot to put the home side 1-0 ahead on 14 minutes.
The noise levels, already loud given the excellent start, aided by a 5.30pm Saturday kick-off - which certainly boosted the coffers of hostelries around North London prior to the match – rose considerably after the goal, as the Arsenal players and fans celebrated the goal.
Striker Lacazette - who calmly strode away from the pandemonium he had created - looked the calmest man at the Emirates, as he once again revelled in a London derby, with five of his last six goals coming against sides from the capital.
On 37 minutes Aubameyang nearly doubled the lead with an athletic overhead kick in the box which just missed the far post.
Chelsea looked rattled which was reflected in David Luiz’s rash challenge of Aaron Ramsey which earned him a yellow card from referee Anthony Taylor.
With six minutes to go until half-time Gunners captain, leader and legend Koscielny doubled the lead with a close range effort which flew past Arrizabalaga via the defender’s shoulder to send the Emirates into dreamland.
The second half started in the same vein as the fired-up Gunners dominated.
As the match progressed Bellerin was taken off with what looked like a serious knee injury while former Gunner Giroud was afforded a warm reception on his return to his old stamping ground.
While it was heartening to see the home crowd honour one of their own what was more heartening was the response Emery’s side gave to their poor showing in their previous London derby.
What a difference a week makes.
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29