Brilliant Arsenal beat Chelsea with Robin van Persie hat-trick
Premier League: Chelsea 3 Arsenal 5
A hat-trick from Robin van Persie completed a quite remarkable win for Arsenal after a breathless eight-goal thriller at Stamford Bridge.
In a match of constantly see-sawing fortunes, Arsenal fell behind twice in the first half, only to hit back each time and then win with two late goals from their currently irrepressible captain Van Persie.
In between that had come marvellous strikes from Theo Walcott and Andre Santos, and arguably an even better one from Chelsea’s Juan Mata as the Blues more than played their part in a pulsating game.
They looked favourites to win at 3-3 with five minutes to go, but then John Terry, playing despite a chaotic week in which the Chelsea and England captain has been under investigation from the FA for alleged racist comments, made an uncharacteristic and vital error, slipping to allow Van Persie in to score.
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The Dutchman added another for good measure to leave Arsene Wenger’s side delirious victors, and continuing their climb up the Premier League table after such a poor start to the season.
Earlier Wenger had decided that Thomas Vermaelen, after 85 minutes against Bolton in the Carling Cup in midweek, was not ready to return for his first league action since August.
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That meant sticking with the same back four that had prevailed against Stoke City six days earlier, with Johan Djourou again asked to fill in at right-back although Carl Jenkinson, like Vermaelen, was fit enough to be included on the bench.
In the place of the suspended Didier Drogba, Andre Villas-Boas unsurprisingly opted for Fernando Torres up front, while Daniel Sturridge was preferred to former Gunner Nicolas Anelka on the right flank and Ramires returned from injury in midfield.
Immediately Arsenal looked vulnerable. Ashley Cole twice scampered down the Chelsea left in the first five minutes to cut back dangerous balls, while Sturridge did likewise on their right.
Out of nowhere though Arsenal created two chances in as many minutes. First Walcott, released by Aaron Ramsey in a rapid counter-attack, crossed for Gervinho who arrived perfectly at the far post only to make a complete hash of a routine finish. It was a glorious chance for Arsenal.
A minute later van Persie, in such prolific form, found space in the Chelsea box and again should have done better than crash a left-footed shot over Petr Cech’s crossbar.
As so often in this fixture in recent years, Chelsea made Arsenal pay for their profligacy by taking the lead on 12 minutes, and the Gunners’ defending, in particular that of Per Mertesacker, came into question.
The big German utterly failed with his headed interception, and Frank Lampard arrived behind him to nod a simple header past an exposed Wojciech Szczesny and into the net. It was a painfully simple goal for Arsenal to concede
Just before the half-hour mark, Sturridge had a glorious chance to double Chelsea’s lead when he raced clear, but with just Szczesny to beat his attempted dinked finish rolled wide.
It was a miss he and Chelsea were to regret as Arsenal found an equaliser eight minutes later. Ramsey was again the creator, threading a ball through the heart of Chelsea’s defence to Gervinho who slipped a short pass beyond the advancing Cech for Van Persie to roll it into the empty net.
Arsenal were level, but not convincing. Sturridge was tormenting the Brazilian left-back Santos, and Lampard was rolling back the years with a powerhouse display in central midfield.
It was from a Lampard corner that Chelsea regained the lead on the stroke of half-time with a goal that was all too typical of Arsenal’s defending this season as Terry arrived in the box to bundle home past Szczesny.
It was a lead Chelsea took into the break and probably deserved, although Villas-Boas would have been worried by the amount of chances Arsenal were creating when the visitors did have possession.
The same happened at the start of the second half, with Van Persie having another chance within 30 seconds. Chelsea’s lack of defensive cohesion was startling and the Gunners were level when Santos thumped a low finish past Cech.
Then came a moment of controversy as Szczesny raced out of his goal and brought down Cole in full flight. The Bridge bayed for a red card for the Arsenal keeper but referee Andre Marriner decided on just yellow for the young Pole.
Moments later Szczesny was flinging himself to his right to keep out a Lampard free-kick, and then jumping for joy as at the other end of the pitch when Walcott put Arsenal into the lead for the first time in the match with a brilliant individual goal.
The England forward escaped inside Chelsea’s right-hand channel on 55 minutes, seemed to slip, get up again, beat two men and then slam the ball past Cech to send the Arsenal travelling fans delirious.
The chances of their side holding on for over half an hour looked nigh on impossible given Arsenal’s recent defensive frailties but, for 20 minutes, the Gunners seemed to be closing in on a famous victory.
However, with 10 minutes to go their luck ran out as Mata picked up the ball and thumped a dipping left-footed shot from 25 yards that flew past Szczesny and inside his right-hand post. 3-3.
Chelsea moved in for the kill and it was hard to not see them scoring again as Arsenal wilted. But then Terry completed his horrific week with a terrible error, slipping to allow Van Persie to race clear and bury the ball past Cech to put Arsenal back in front.
Still Chelsea pressed for a leveller and Wenger sent on Vermaelen, who made one tremendous block, and then Van Persie added his coup de grace in injury-time.
The Dutchman converted Tomas Rosicky’s pass with another lethal left-footed strike to complete his hat-trick, his 12th goal of an already stellar season and a remarkable win was complete.
A second consecutive defeat has halted Villas-Boas’s early momentum, but for Arsenal this was a first league away win of the season, and one that could even reignite talk of a title challenge.
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Mikel (Meireles, 75), Lampard, Ramires (Lukaku, 72), Sturridge (Malouda 63), Mata, Torres.
Subs not used: Blackman, Luiz, Romeu, Bertrand.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Djourou (Jenkinson, 75), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Santos, Song, Ramsey, Arteta, Walcott (Rosicky, 79), Gervinho (Vermaelen, 86), Van Persie.
Subs not used: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Park, Arshavin, Frimpong.
Referee: Andre Marriner