Chelsea hold on against spirited Arsenal fight-back to triumph 2-1 in Premier League
By Rob Parrish - Follow me on Twitter @skysportsrobp. Last Updated: 21/01/13 7:21am
Chelsea held off a spirited second-half fightback from Arsenal to triumph 2-1 at Stamford Bridge as Rafa Benitez enjoyed the rare pleasure of a home Premier League victory.
The Blues were dominant in the opening 45 minutes and were two goals to the good at the break courtesy of Juan Mata's early opener and a Frank Lampard penalty soon after.
But the Gunners were transformed after the interval and reduced the deficit through Theo Walcott before the hour mark, but could not find a leveller as Chelsea held out to avoid a repeat of their midweek misery when they blew a 2-0 lead against Southampton.
Best of the match
- Man of the match: Frank Lampard. Chelsea's captain fired home from the penalty spot for what proved to be the winning goal and was excellent alongside Ramires in the first half.
- Goal of the match: Theo Walcott demonstrated why he views himself as a striker as he finished in fine style beyond Petr Cech after being found by Santi Cazorla.
- Moment of the match: Fernando Torres showed a flash of his old self by getting away from Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen, only to revert to type by over-running the ball and allowing Wojciech Szczesny to gather.
- Controversy of the match: Arsene Wenger was infuriated that Arsenal were not awarded a free-kick in the lead up to Chelsea's opener as Ramires appeared to foul Francis Coquelin.
- Talking points: How can both clubs produce two 45 minute displays with such a difference in quality? Chelsea were excellent before the break, with Arsenal appalling. The Gunners then stepped up a gear after the interval and the Blues were clinging on at times.
Arsenal missed a glorious opportunity to open the scoring with only five minutes on the clock as Walcott threaded a ball through to Olivier Giroud, only for the French striker to fire across the face of Petr Cech's goal and inches wide of the far post.
Chelsea then went straight to the other end of the field and took the lead, with Mata collecting Cesar Azpilicueta's diagonal pass before beating Wojciech Szczesny, although Arsene Wenger was infuriated by Ramires' challenge on Francis Coquelin in the build-up.
Cech then had to be alert to turn away a long-range stinger from Santi Cazorla, but that was the last real action of the half for the Blues goalkeeper, with only catching practice from Arsenal corners to trouble him.
With just 16 minutes on the clock, Chelsea were two goals to the good as Ramires fell over Szczesny's outstretched leg after initially robbing Abou Diaby in midfield before linking up with Mata and Fernando Torres. Referee Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot and booked the Gunners goalkeeper.
Lampard stepped up to send another reminder of his enduring qualities to the Chelsea hierarchy as he sent Szczesny the wrong way from the spot, but his recent run of good form appears unlikely to change the opinion of those in power with no new contract talks planned.
The remainder of the half mainly consisted of Arsenal chasing shadows as they simply could not cope with Chelsea's passing and movement, with Eden Hazard, Oscar and Mata all seeing plenty of the ball and the Gunners defence, with Bacary Sagna often culpable, stretched to the limit.
But the second half was an entirely different affair, with Arsenal pressing from the off and showing much greater drive and determination with Per Mertesacker and Walcott both testing Cech in the opening moments, while Giroud could have done better with a far post header from Gibbs' cross.
Walcott then brought them back into the game in the 58th minute as he timed his run to perfection, having been caught offside several times in the first half, collecting Cazorla's perfectly weighted pass before beating Cech with aplomb.
There were chances at both ends in an enthralling final 30 minutes, with Torres getting away from Mertesacker and Vermaelen before over-running the ball, while Demba Ba came on and saw his shot cleared off the line by the Belgian defender after rounding Szczesny.
Vermaelen then fizzed a free-kick narrowly wide, Gary Cahill put in a superb last-ditch tackle to deny Walcott and Giroud again headed off target in five minutes of added time as Chelsea claimed only their second Premier League victory at home under Benitez.
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