Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Walcott
Subs: Ospina, Chambers, Debuchy, Gibbs, Arteta, Giroud, Campbell
9 man Arsenal went down 2-0 against 12 man Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this afternoon to compound a difficult week for the club.
After the midweek disappointment in Europe, Arsene Wenger reverted to the team that beat Stoke 2-0 last weekend with Theo Walcott getting the nod over Olivier Giroud for the third successive game.
In a bright opening Diego Costa dived and tried to get Francis Coquelin booked because he is a massive cheat, while the first shot on goal came from former Gunner Cesc Fabregas – the save for Petr Cech was an easy one.
At the other end there was plenty of possession for the men in red as the home side sat off, inviting pressure on them to try and hit Arsenal on the counter. A poor ball Gabriel was almost costly, but Monreal defended well to prevent Costa a clear sight of goal.
An injury to Coquelin around the 20th minute mark had Arsenal hearts in mouths, his knee bent backwards landing after a jump but after some treatment he carried on. Cech had to make another save, this time from Costa, but again it wasn’t one that troubled him greatly.
The Gunners first effort on target came in the 29th minute when Walcott shot straight into the arms of Begovic after being set up by Mesut Ozil, and the first booking of the game came in the 32nd when Cazorla tripped Pedro. And the former Barcelona man might have put the home side ahead when found by Fabregas but good pressure from Monreal and a smothering save from Cech snuffed out the danger.
There were strong shouts for a Chelsea penalty when Gabriel forced Hazard out of play in the box, he was shepherding the ball out of play – but he didn’t have the ball. Strong stuff from the Brazilian though – no doubt pundits would be hailing the strength of a Terry if he did it. Pedro shot wide after being set up by Costa, before the half finished with high drama and an Arsenal red card.
After Costa put his hands in Koscielny’s face and then bumped him over, the Chelsea striker clashed with Gabriel who took umbrage at the behaviour. That led to both players being booked by referee Mike Dean, and as the two moved back into midfield, Costa, standing behind Gabriel, wound him up and the Brazilian flicked out a leg.
Costa, now casting himself in the role of 4th official, ensured Dean saw it and he produced a second yellow and sent the Arsenal man off. Pathetic refereeing, cheating of the highest order from Costa, but Gabriel fell for the gamesmanship too easily and paid the price.
It meant a half-time change was needed, and with Coquelin still feeling the injury, he was replaced by Calum Chambers as Arsenal needed to get a defender on to replace Gabriel.
There was a free kick chance for Arsenal when Alexis was fouled on the top of the D. The Chilean hit the set-piece into the wall and from the resulting a corner a Chelsea break was snuffed out by Chambers and Bellerin.
Hopes that Arsenal might see the game out were dashed when Chelsea were given soft free kick in the 53rd minute in midfield. Fabregas curled it to the back post, Zouma headed in from close range. 0-1.
Hazard tested Cech with a vicious shot in the 57th minute, but despite all the Chelsea pressure there was a big chance for Arsenal to equalise. As the ball bounced around their area, Alexis had the goal in his sight from close range but miskicked and sent it wide. He really should have scored.
Walcott curled one beyond the far post but it was almost 2-0 when Hazard dragged a shot just wide, before Chambers was next to go into the book for daring to make a tackle on the Belgian. Arsene Wenger then made two changes, bringing on Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Ozil and the wasteful Alexis.
Any hopes the changes might bring an equaliser lasted only a few minutes when Santi Cazorla picked up a second yellow for a foul on Fabregas. It was marginal, at best, but Cazorla was done no favours by the reaction of Fabregas who rolled around like he’d been poleaxed.
Chelsea got a second in injury time when a Hazard shot deflected in off Chambers, and in the end, I couldn’t be arsed to finish this report.