Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ruthless Chelsea Overpower Nine-Man Arsenal

After finally managing to break out of their astonishing streak of two losses in their midweek Champions League victory against Maccabi Tel Aviv, Jose Mourinho's Chelsea hosted Arsenal in an intense derby. While many eyes at Stamford Bridge were fixed on the two managers curtly shaking hands without even glancing at each other, many of the Chelsea faithful also had an eye on the benched John Terry who was replaced by Kurt Zouma in the starting eleven.

Both sides took a few minutes to rev their engine as the match continuously built in rivalry and excitement. Arsenal's speed created a few early difficulties for the questioned Chelsea defence, however Chelsea's speedy counter-attack was always a threat. With two former players on the pitch, it had to be former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas to spark Chelsea into life with sharp passing. Pedro's return to the lineup gave plenty of attacking support as Hazard and Diego Costa's interplay threatened in bursts.

Partway through the first half, the most integral cog in Arsenal's midfield, Francis Coquelin, looked like it was about to break down. The Frenchman played on despite not looking completely healthy, maybe also because the Arsenal bench didn't have a proper replacement to hold the midfield. While this might have seemed unfortunate for Wenger's side, it was in the final minutes of the half that events swung definitively against Arsenal.

Gabriel's not-so sneaky kick against Diego Costa
Diego Costa's tempestuous physicality up front led to a stray elbow and hand, both nastily being slapped across Koscielny's face. The Chelsea forward then proceeded to chest Koscielny to the ground as the French defender tried to stand up, leading to the heated Gabriel coming over to wrestle Diego Costa away from his teammate. Referee Mike Dean must have missed Diego Costa's initial elbow, and thus gave Costa and Gabriel a yellow each. In the following arguments and discussions, Gabriel lost his cool and earned himself a second yellow with an aggressive kick of the heel at Costa.

Arsene Wenger started the second half by replacing the partly injured Coquelin with Callum Chambers, however, Diego Costa's dark magic already left its mark, and Arsenal's ten men were unable to stop Kurt Zouma from heading in the opener from Fabregas's free kick. As the second half continued, Diego Costa was continuously in the middle of events as he played what could be considered one of the best matches of his season. Arsenal's ten men had difficulty managing Chelsea's advances, however were still able to occasionally create a dangerous opportunity with the darting Alexis Sanchez.

Struggling to compete in the match, the Gunners lost another man when Santi Cazorla's tackle on Fabregas was just a fraction too late (and a bit too forceful as well), earning him a second yellow with ten minutes remaining. While it seemed like destiny that Diego Costa would score the sealing goal, the opportunity came to Eden Hazard. The Belgian's deflected shot gave Cech no chance, the former Chelsea keeper defeated by his former team in his former stadium.


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