Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3: match report
Arsenal's title hopes took a significant, possibly fatal blow as they were brushed aside by the power and threat of Chelsea which was epitomised by a frightening performance by Didier Drogba. Two first-half goals just before half-time, and a late free-kick, sent Arsenal reeling and means they are now 11 points behind the Premier League leaders who, with this victory, also stretched their advantage over Manchester United back to five points. Related ArticlesDidier Drogba is football's most complete strikerDebate: two-horse race?Premier League actionPremier League tablePremier League fixturesSport on televisionIt will hurt Arsenal supporters all the more that both of the first-half goals were the result of crosses by their former player, Ashley Cole, who later departed with a suspected hamstring injury. The Chelsea left-back was booed throughout and, at the start of the contest, appeared to be affected but he rallied to tee up Drogba and also force an own goal by Thomas Vermaelen. Drogba's finish, a superbly guided, side-footed volley after he stole in between William Gallas and Vermeulen came after John Terry's clever pass down the left wing. Minutes later and Ashley Cole again burst down the flank to centre, again towards Drogba, but as Gallas lunged in to try and cut it out he distracted Vermeuelen with the ball then deflecting into the goal off the defender's thigh. It struck the same post as Drogba had hit before it nestled into the net. It was just before the end that Drogba heaped embarrassment, making the scoreline even more emphatic as he struck a fierce free-kick, after Cesc Fabregas had tripped Frank Lampard. It was Drogba's tenth goal in nine games and, so often the scourge of Arsenal, his 10th in 11 fixtures against them. It was an awesome statement of intent from Chelsea and their main striker. Drogba could have had a hat-trick. He had wasted two headed opportunities while Nicolas Anelka could have had a penalty as he tangled with Bacary Sagna inside the area after he ran onto a perceptive pass from Lampard who, as expected, returned from injury it what was effectively a full strength Chelsea side. Arsenal sorely missed the injured Robin Van Persie who, it was confirmed over the weekend, will be out for four to five months because of an ankle injury. Arsene Wenger's side enjoyed plenty of possession in the sodden conditions but were unable to carve out clear-cut chances with Samir Nasri forcing a smart save from Petr Cech. Andrei Arshavin had the ball in the net but the effort was rightly ruled out by referee Andre Marriner after Eduardo had kicked it out of Cech's hands as he tried to collect a cross following Drogba's woeful back-pass. Arsenal threw on more strikers, with Branislav Ivanovic surviving a penalty appeal for a tackle on substitute Carlos Vela, but Lampard went close when deflecting a cross, forcing a fine save from Almunia. Arsenal kept trying to penetrate the Chelsea defence who were resolutely and impressively marshalled by John Terry and who comfortably withstood the pressure. Chelsea were just too strong and now appear to be too far ahead of Arsenal also.
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