SUPER DIDI SLAYS ARSENAL

By Matt Connellan
Mar 24th, 2008

Avram Grant masterminded a magnificent Chelsea comeback, as the Blues’ took their unbeaten run of games at Stamford Bridge to 78, coming back from 1-0 down to topple Arsenal and steal second place on the table.

With Paulo Ferreira mysteriously absent, Michael Essien started at right back, with Ashley Cole continuing on the left. Carlo Cudicini again started in goal and in midfield Makelélé was preferred to Mikel. The regular front three was retained, although a fit-again Anelka was on the bench, Shevchenko the man to miss out.

Robin van Persie started again for the Gunners, as did Emmanuel Eboué on the other flank, in support of Emmanuel Adebayor. The prodigious duo of Fabregas and Flamini patrolled the middle of the pitch, whilst on the bench was firepower in the form of young stars Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott.

Both sides were cautious early, although it was Arsenal who showed more inclination to attack. However, Chelsea sat deep, Makelélé busy in the early stages as they absorbed the pressure.

On 16 minutes, Hleb found van Persie on the edge of the box, however having set himself up beautifully, the Dutch forward blasted into the crowd. Michael Ballack forced a decent save out of Almunia a few moments later, as the two sides went jab for jab.

Midway through the half, van Persie again found himself in a decent position to shoot and this time worked Cudicini, however the in-form shot stopper wasn’t really troubled. A minute later, John Terry’s long ball forward found Drogba one on one with Almunia, however under pressure from Gallas, his second touch was poor and allowed the goalkeeper to gratefully gather.

Two great chances followed in the final few minutes of the half. Firstly, the much maligned Gallas hit the post from all of three yards out, only to be halted for offside, and then Kalou mis-kicked right in front of goal after a great knock down from Ballack. The German then tested Almunia again as the half drew to a close, the score locked at 0-0.

Within three minutes of the start of the second half, Cudicini was tested, reacting brilliantly to save Flamini’s fierce volley as Ashley Cole flew across in front of him. Ten minutes later, Adebayor shot from the edge of the box, the Italian goalkeeper again dealing with it comfortably.

With half an hour to play, Arsenal took the lead through the most unlikely of goalscorers, their right back, Bacary Sagna. The French summer signing met a Fabregas corner at the near post to guide a superb header past Cudicini to give the Gunners the upper hand. It was his first ever goal for Arsenal.

Within a minute, Chelsea should have equalised, Joe Cole finding another unlikely source in Ashley Cole, only for the England defender to head high and wide.

With twenty minutes remaining, Avram Grant rolled the dice, sending on Anelka for Makelélé and Belletti for Ballack. Both players looked disappointed at their withdrawals, as the formation switched to 4-4-2. “You don’t know what you’re doing” rang out around Stamford Bridge, as did chants of “José Mourinho.” Moments later, Drogba equalised to the delight of our current manager.

Arsenal failed to deal with a hopeful Terry ball, and when it eventually dropped to Drogba, the Ivorian drilled home with the utmost conviction, his exuberant celebration earning him a yellow card.

Theo Walcott was sent on in a bid to find a winner for Arsenal, yet with ten minutes to go, Grant’s changes were further justified, as the two substitutes combined to set up Drogba. Belletti’s free kick was knocked down by the excellent Anelka and Drogba took a touch before finishing past Almunia.

Bendtner replaced Flamini and Mikel replaced Joe Cole as both mangers made their objectives clear. However, the full time whistle was too soon for the Gunners despite five minutes of stoppage time, the win masterminded by Grant enough to send Chelsea into second place, just five points behind Manchester United.

Chelsea (4-3-3) Cudicini; Essien; Carvalho, Terry (c), A Cole; Ballack (Belletti 70), Makelélé (Anelka 70), Lampard; J Cole (Mikel 88), Drogba, Kalou.

Arsenal (4-4-2) Almunia; Sagna (Diaby 70), Toure, Gallas (c), Clichy; Eboue, Hleb, Fabregas, Flamini (Bendtner 88); Van Persie (Walcott 76), Adebayor.

Referee Mark Clattenburg
Attendance: 41,824

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