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January 20, 2013
• Stamford Bridge, London
Referee: M. Atkinson
• Attendance: 41784
F. Lampard 16'
T. Walcott 58'
Arsenal, as was the case last week against Manchester City, will be buoyed by a much-improved second half performance. They upped their tempo and intensity, catching a complacent Chelsea side by surprise. Walcott grabbed a goal with a delightful finish, but the Gunners couldn't quite find an equaliser despite their best efforts.
Chelsea were rampant in the first half, attacking with pace and guile, but that attacking threat was non-existent in the second half and the Blues had to rely on the kind of last-ditch, aggressive defending that won them the Champions League last year. Ba could have prevented a nervy finale, but, having rounded Szczesny, his shot was blocked on the line by Vermaelen.
FULL-TIME! That's it, it's all over, Chelsea get the three points. The Blues just about managed to resist a second half onslaught from Arsenal, who bombarded the Blues' box with crosses without ever truly testing Cech. That's a huge result for Benitez, ending Chelsea's poor run of form at home.
90' + 5'
Chelsea half clear the initial corner, but struggle to keep a hold of the ball and constantly give possession back to Arsenal. Another cross is whipped in and Giroud tries an inventive back-header that sees the ball land on the roof of the net. That might be the Gunners' last chance.
90' + 3'
Sagna lobs a hopeful ball towards goal which Giroud heads into the path of Walcott. The rapid winger can't quite reach the ball and Ivanovic clears for another corner.
90' + 2'
Chelsea manage to waste a minute or so down by Arsenal's corner flag, but Arsenal recover the ball and push forward again. Giroud dances towards the byline and pulls the ball back, but there is no red shirt there to put the ball in the back of the net and Cahill clears for a corner.
90' + 1'
The awardal of five minutes of added time is greeted by groans and jeers from the home crowd. They know their side is clinging on a bit here.
Ba wins a free-kick 30-yards out from goal. Mata whips it in, and the ball falls for Bertrand on the edge of the box who smashes a volley towards goal. Sagna makes the block, but Chelsea claim it hit his arm. Arsenal break and Giroud attempts a hugely ambitious and very wasteful volley from long-range.
Cazorla is standing over the free-kick but it is Vermaelen who takes it, sending a low drive inches wide of the far post. Close!
Yellow Card Ashley Cole
Mata loses possesion in a dangerous area, and the ball breaks kindly for Sagna. But the french full-back is dragged down on the very edge of the box by Cole, and the referee awards a free-kick.
Arsenal are pushing forward in search of an equaliser, but leaving themselves exposed at the back. Either side could grab another goal.
What a block! Mata plays a lovely pass for Ba, and the striker is through on goal. Szczesny races off his line but is easily rounded by Ba. The Senegalese forward has only Vermaelen to beat, who had retreated to the goal-line, but the Belgian flings his body in front of Ba's shot. Superb defensive awareness.
Wilshere releases Arshavin for his first touch in a dangerous area, but it's a heavy one though, with the Russian kicking the ball straight out of play.
There are jeers and cheers as Torres leaves the field. The homes fans are happy he's been subbed, although he gave a much more promising performance today.
Hazard plays a delicious back-heeled flick to Mata, who has space in the hole, but the Spaniard can't quite find his countryman Torres with a through-ball.
Wilshere is gobbled up again, this time by Ramires. The 21-year-old falls to the ground, claiming he's been elbowed, but there's very little contact and no intent. The referee waves play on and Ramires breaks. He tries several stuttered step-overs and Vermaelen is able to tackle.
Wilshere is robbed in midfield and Chelsea can surge forward. Mata feeds Torres, but the striker's tame effort is all too easy for Szczesny to save.
Wenger is rolling the dice, bringing on Arshavin in place of Diaby. The Gunners need a goal, but have offered little threat since scoring - barring the slaloming runs of Gibbs.
Benitez is looking to shut up shop now. Chelsea are playing with less abandon on the break, while the introduction of the defensive-minded Bertrand offers more solidity than Oscar.
Chelsea win a corner which is easily cleared. Ramires picks up the loose ball 35-yards out from goal, takes a touch and then smashes a shot towards goal, forcing a good save from the Gunners' Polish keeper.
Torres bursts down the channel again, with Vermaelen totally unable to live with his pace. The Spaniard reaches the byline, but his deflected pull-back evades Hazard.
He's back! No, wait, he isn't. Torres accelerates away from Vermaelen with a burst of speed we've not seen for years. The Spaniard is through on goal - this is his chance - but, alas, his next touch is heavy and rolls into the arms of Szczesny. Almost brilliant from Torres, who appears to have hurt himself.
Walcott wins a free-kick on the edge of the box. Mata is furious with the decision, and picks up a yellow card for kicking the ball away in disgust. Cazorla takes the set-piece, but his shot is deflected off the wall for a corner. The resulting delivery doesn't beat the first man.
Yellow Card Juan Mata
Suddenly Chelsea look under enormous pressure, seeking sanctuary on their 18-yard line. Arsenal are building a head of steam here, and Stamford Bridge is increasingly anxious. It feels like only a matter of time before the Gunners score again.
Torres and Hazard pounce on Ramsey and look be through on goal, but the referee deems the pair to have fouled the Arsenal midfielder. Bit soft.
Arsenal almost grab another goal immediately. Ramsey, on for Coquelin, wins possession and Arsenal break. Wilshere feeds Walcott, who bursts infield before dragging his shot wide of the near post.
Assist Santi Cazorla
Goal Theo Walcott
GOAL!! Cazorla finds himself in space in the middle of the pitch. Head up, he spots Walcott's in-to-out run and threads a pass between the centre-backs for Walcott to chase. The 23-year-old lets the ball run across his body and then strokes the ball into the back of the net with the calm inevitability that is beginning to define him. Lovely finish, superb pass.
Gibbs fakes and shimmies towards goal, before clipping a cross into the box. Giroud rises highest, but heads the ball into the ground and Cech is able to save.
The intensity of Chelsea's play has evaporated. Hazard tries to dribble his way past four red shirts but, isolated and devoid of the support that was ever-present in the first half, Arsenal are able to gobble him up.
There's a break in play for Giroud to receive treatment. He's able to carry on, so Walcott's desire to play through the middle will remain a pipedream for now.
Chelsea, however, are struggling to string passes together with the speed and invention they showed in the first half.
Arsenal have made a bright start to the half. Wilshere's clipped through-ball finds Walcott, and the winger drills his shot towards goal, but Cech is able to gather the ball with ease.
A deep free-kick is floated into the box and ball lands perfectly for Mertesacker. The German is in the centre of goal, six yards out, but passes the ball straight into the arms of Cech. He should have scored.
Arsenal get the second half underway. Will Chelsea forfeit a two-goal lead for the second game running?
It is Chelsea who look most likely to add to their lead, and have been fluid, pacey and dangerous on the counter-attack. Despite all that adventure and gusto though, they've not tested Szczesny enough since doubling their lead - the introduction of Ba could add a more clinical edge to their play.
Arsenal have mounted little response to going behind, and possess few options off the bench to change the game. Walcott has flirted with the offside trap, and Giroud missed a sitter early on, but the Gunners have been entirely blunt otherwise.
HALF-TIME! Chelsea are in total control at the break thanks to goals from Mata and Lampard. The first was a deliciously ferocious finish, the second a typically calm spot-kick.
45' + 1'
Walcott is clean-through again, played in by Coquelin, but he's offside again. The winger-cum-striker has lacked end product, but otherwise been a rare bright spark of activity.
Lampard floats in a free-kick from deep, which bounces kindly for Torres. 10-yards out and with time and space, the Spaniard skews his shot well wide. Awful finish. For all Chelsea's attacking verve, Torres has barely featured.
Ramires' cross is deflected behind for a corner, and Arsenal clear the resulting set-piece. There's a little bit more authority about the Gunners' defending when dealing with crosses now.
Wilshere plays a through-ball for Walcott and the winger is through one-on-one, but the flag is raised for offside.
Chelsea break after the corner and Oscar finds space near the corner flag. He tries to find an onrushing Lampard on the edge of the box, but Vermaelen steps up and intercepts. Arsenal look so vulnerable to counter-attacks.
Sagna has his foot trodden on, and falls to the ground in stages. The home crowd are furious. The referee gives a free-kick which is launched into the box by Wilshere and deflected wide of the post for a corner, which Chelsea clear.
Chelsea break again with Ramires. The energetic Brazilian skips past a lame challenge and has a great chance to test Szczesny, but blasts the ball high and wide.
Giroud flicks the ball to Wilshere and the young midfielder is able to surge towards goal. He tries to play in Walcott, but the winger is flagged for offside. Giroud attempts to fire the loose ball into a half-empty goal after the play was called dead, but still can't hit the back of the net.
Wilshere dinks a delightful ball behind the Chelsea defence for Giroud. The Frenchman should hit it first time, but tries to take a touch and Cahill is able to clear.
Here's Wayne Veysey, at Stamford Bridge for us today: "'We want you to stay, we want you to stay, Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay' sing the Chelsea fans to the Arsenal manager, who is watching his side get comprehensively out-played here."
Cole and Oscar combine to good effect, and the Brazilian is able to burst into the box. He can't quite find room to send in an effective cross, and Mertesacker blasts clear his tame attempt.
Mata weaves his way into the box and is allowed to cross, but Vermaelen stoops to head clear. Seconds later, Sagna allows Cole to ghost in at the far post, but the Chelsea full-back's headed pull-back can't find Torres.
Chelsea have slowed the tempo, keeping hold of the ball and probing with more patience - a luxury afforded to them by their two-goal cushion. Cech's palms have only been stung once so far.
Chelsea break again, four-versus-four against a retreating Arsenal defence. Hazard drives forward and releases Mata, but the Spaniard's first-time cross is blocked. Arsenal survive again.
Mata frees Hazard, who races towards goal. The Belgian cuts back inside before firing a shot towards goal, but it is easily saved. Arsenal can't live with Chelsea's pace and movement.
Arsenal, who usually dominate possession, have had just 43% of the ball and Chelsea look rampant at the moment.
Penalty Goal Frank Lampard
GOAL!! Ramires robs Diaby and Arsenal break with Torres. The Spaniard feeds Mata, who feigns to shoot before feeding Ramires. The Brazilian dallies, fakes a shot and is then brought down by Szczesny and the referee points to the spot. Lampard steps up and slots the ball in the bottom right corner. Nerveless as ever.
Yellow Card Wojciech Szczesny
Azpilicueta races down the right flank and fires a low cross into the box, which Arsenal clear. The Gunners have looked a bit vulnerable from crosses so far.
Mata's subsequent corner is initially cleared, but the ball is lobbed back into the box where Lampard, in acres of space, slams the ball against the base of the post. It wouldn't have counted anyway, the midfielder was offside.
Chelsea's Three Amigos are enjoying the wintry conditions. Hazard embarks on a mazy run into the box, gliding past players with ease, before firing a stinging shot at goal that is well saved.
Arsenal have rallied after going behind. Concerted possession in Chelsea's half sees Cazorla fire a long-range shot towards goal which is palmed behind for a corner. Cech easily claims the resulting delivery.
Coquelin has to leave the field for treatment, and replays suggest he was fouled in the build-up to the goal.
Assist César Azpilicueta
Goal Juan Mata
GOAL!! Seconds after Giroud's miss, Mata gives Chelsea the lead. Coquelin is robbed - and Arsenal cry foul play - but the Blues break. Azpilicueta floats a delicious pass towards Mata, who takes a touch and then buries his shot past Szczesny. A great pass and an explosive finish.
What a chance! Walcott drifts infield and plays a perfectly weighted through-ball behind Ivanovic for Giroud to latch onto. The Frenchman takes a touch and shoots, but drags his shot wide of the the post.
Good work from Mata and Azpilicueta down the right sees a cross floated into the box, but Vermaelen heads clear under no pressure.
That's more like the Torres of old! The Spaniard knocks the ball past Mertesacker before the big German pulls him down, earning his side a free-kick. Ivanovic heads Lampard's resulting delivery over the bar.
Chelsea immediately get forward, and Oscar darts into the box. The Brazilian goes down under a challenge from Diaby, but the referee waves play on. Lampard attempts a speculative shot from range which sails over the bar.
Chelsea get the match underway.
The players are on the pitch and we're just minutes away from kick-off.
When the Gunners beat Chelsea 5-3 in the respective fixture last season, they became the first and only away side to strike five times in a Premier League match at Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal have a league win percentage of just 14.28% without Mikel Arteta, winning once, drawing three and losing three.
Chelsea have been awarded seven penalties and scored six, more than any other side; while only two officials have pointed to the spot more often than today’s referee Martin Atkinson.
Chelsea have won just one of their last seven league games at Stamford Bridge – their worst run at home since 1995.
Illness to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski sees Arsenal retain the same starting XI that beat Swansea in the FA Cup on Wednesday night. Francis Coquelin partners Abou Diaby in midfield, while Theo Walcott is forced out wide as Olivier Giroud makes a rare league start upfront. Laurent Koscielny has served the one-match suspension that ruled him out of the FA Cup Third Round replay, but Per Mertesacker is preferred to the Frenchman today.
The big team news from a snowy Stamford Bridge is that Fernando Torres starts ahead of Demba Ba, despite the Senegalese striker having bagged three goals in his last four games. Elsewhere, David Luiz’s absence means Gary Cahill continues in defence alongside the returning Branislav Ivanovic (who was rested mid-week), while the 34-year-old Frank Lampard proves there is life in the old dog yet, making a third start in the space of a week.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Coquelin, Wilshere, Diaby; Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla. Subs: Mannone, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Santos, Frimpong, Ramsey, Arshavin.
Chelsea: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Oscar, Mata, Hazard; Torres. Subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, Terry, Bertrand, Ake, Marin, Ba.
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's live play-by-play coverage of Chelsea v Arsenal! I'm Ewan Roberts and I will be guiding you through all the action from Stamford Bridge. First up, here are today’s line-ups…
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