Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Arsenal 2 – 2 Chelsea: Bellerin’s stoppage-time volley saves Gunners against Blues in thrilling encounter

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Arsenal and Chelsea played a game that lived up to the expectations on paper.

Jack Wilshere netted the opener midway into the second, but goals from Eden Hazard and Marcos Alonso pushed Chelsea on top. It seemed The Blues were set to pull the upset, but Hector Bellerin came out of nowhere to equalise on stoppage time with a stunning volley. The game ended 2-2, but there is no question either side could have won it.

Arsenal had a slight edge during a hard-fought first half

The first half showed two lively teams knowing they needed a win to climb positions in the standings. The game was played with an intense pace, and that led to both sides creating decent chances. Although if we analyse which team looked more dangerous, The Gunners had a slight edge during the first 45 minutes.

Chelsea came close to score first, though, when Alvaro Morata tried his luck from inside the box in the 14th minute. However, his effort went slightly wide. Arsenal replied shortly after thanks to Alexis Sanchez – who ended starting despite the speculation of a potential transfer to Manchester City – but the Chilean sent the ball wide off the left post. Sanchez started as an attacking midfielder behind Alexandre Lacazette, and looked quite active both on and off the ball.

Arsenal created the best chances, but could not score

Lacazette had the next big chance for Arsenal after sneaking his way past defenders until reaching the end of the box. But his attempt was blocked brilliantly by Thibaut Courtois, who dived towards the bottom right corner to prevent a goal. The Belgian shot-stopped came up big every time Chelsea needed him.

Arsenal would have one more chance thanks to Mesut Özil, but the German could not find the target from the edge of the box in the 39th minute and his effort went narrowly off the right post. Cesc Fabregas had the final chance in the opening half, but the Spaniard – and former Arsenal captain – sent it over the ball from inside the penalty box. In the end the first half finished with a scoreless draw, but Arsene Wenger’s men had a slight supremacy overall.

Chelsea started strong, but Arsenal scored the first goal…

If anyone thought the second half was going to be slower, then they could not have been more mistaken. In fact, Chelsea came agonizingly close to break the deadlock just four minutes into the second half. Hazard and Morata could have scored for Chelsea in the first few minutes, but Lacazette and Özil answered for Arsenal. The Gunners began to play better, and they were rewarded midway into the second half.

Chelsea’s resistance would not last forever. Arsenal began to find spaces on the left side of their attack, and the goal came through that flank. A good pass from Özil found a deflection, and Wilshere took advantage of that to drill an absolute rocket into the near post in the 63th minute. It was Wilshere’s first goal with Arsenal since May 24th, 2015, and it pushed Wenger’s men upfront deservedly.

…only to see Hazard equalise a few minutes later

Arsenal did not back down, and Lacazette came close to score in the subsequent play but Courtois denied him once again. It seemed Arsenal were set to dominate the game, but then the unthinkable happened. Out of nowhere, Bellerin fould Hazard inside the box, and the Belgian himself calmly placed the ball past Cech to even things up.

Hazard’s goal gave Chelsea some much-needed life, and they began to push the lines forward. Arsenal looked dazed and confused, and The Blues looked in control after they scored. Hazard looked active in the final third, Tiemoue Bakayoko began to dominate the middle of the pitch, and Arsenal looked helpless. Morata had a golden chance to put Chelsea in front in the 70th, but the former Real Madrid inexplicably sent the ball over the bar in a very good position to score. Even Kante came close to score, but his attempt was blocked and went a bit wide when Cech was absolutely beaten.

Marcos Alonso’s out-of-nowhere goal lifted Chelsea…

The final 15 minutes remained pretty intense. Arsenal tried to shake things up with the entrance of Danny Welbeck replacing an inaccurate Lacazette. However, the former Manchester United striker struggled to make an impact in the final minutes. Conte tried to freshen up the attacking end with the entrance of Willian instead of Hazard, who looked extremely tired following his effort in the second half. It seemed neither side was going to came away with the three points, but Marcos Alonso had other plans.

The Spanish left-wing back found himself in a nº 9 role, and did not look lost. A good run from Davide Zappacosta ended with a low cross from the Italian, and Alonso placed the ball past Cech. This was Alonso’s sixth goal in the Premier League campaign, and it seemed Chelsea were moving up to second place, keeping their slim title chances alive for one more week.

…but Bellerin saved the day for Arsenal

Arsenal went all out on the attack in the final minutes, and even though it seemed they seemed out of ideas to turn it around, they were rewarded on stoppage time. A lobbed ball into the box was cleared by Chelsea’s defence, but no one expected Bellerin to score with a half-volley from the edge of the box. The Spanish wing-back placed a great shot out of Courtois’ reach, and gave Arsenal a 2-2 draw. Considering how the game happened, it was the least Arsenal deserved.

The game was far from over, though. Both Morata and Zappacosta came close to score the winner for Chelsea in the 93rd miunte, but neither could convert. The Spaniard missed a one-on-one, and the Italian smashed the crossbar with a fierce shot when Cech was beaten.

In the end, neither side should be happy with the draw here. Chelsea remain in third place behind Manchester United, while Arsenal continue in sixth place. The Gunners’ Champions League chances continue to drift away on a weekly basis.

Match Report

Arsenal: Cech; Chambers (Walcott, 88′), Mustafi, Holding; Bellerin, Xhaka, Wilshere, Maitland-Niles; Özil, Alexis; Lacazette (Welbeck, 80′)

Subs not used: Ospina (GK), Mertesacker, Coquelin, Elneny, Iwobi

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses (Zappacosta, 56′), Fabregas (Drinkwater, 71′), Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso; Hazard (Willian, 82′); Morata

Subs not used: Caballero (GK), Rudiger, Pedro, Batshuayi

Goals: Wilshere (1-0, 63′), Hazard (1-1, 67′, PEN), Alonso (84′), Bellerin (90+2′)

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Yellow Cards: Wilshere, Holding (ARS); Fabregas, Courtois (CHE)

Red Cards: None

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Juan Pablo Aravena


A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.

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