By Randy Osae
Arsenal’s night at Stamford Bridge began very naive with little agile, but by the final whistle, they were rejoicing a priceless storming over Chelsea that reignited their title ambitions, and the most relieving of all – ascended them back into the top four on the table.
Cautions of perhaps his last throw of the dice in the title race rang in Arsene Wenger’s gumption as he took his side to west London today.
The Frenchman was strictly audacious about Arsenal’s chances of shifting the good olds back to their sanctuary in the build-up. That looked somehow absurd when his side were struggling to even mingle with title hopefuls.
And the bookies looked spot-on as always with their discounting of Arsenal for a whole hour, until the elegant Robin van Persie turned a taste of absolute bitterness to candy-sweet for the Gunners.
Sagna’s return moved Djourou to center-back where he replaced new Wenger favorite Silvestre who had been in sloppy form. Nasri retained his place on left which meant Denilson took the flank role on the right while Song was Fabregas’s defensive midfield partner.
As ever, Chelsea were dominant by miles in the opening minutes, but when Arsenal finally broke for a breathe in the 13th minute, an emotional Gallas almost rebounded Fabregas’s saved shot in.
Despite the home side’s clear edge, and much possession, Arsenal went closer when they stole off some pressure. Cesc Fabregas tested Cech from long range, and a slick move from Lampard and Deco which almost set-up a notch for Anelka followed.
Chelsea kept on posing questions on Arsenal’s disgruntled back-four which had centre-backs Gallas and Djourou, very sluggish. And it took just the hour-mark for Chelsea to underline those woes.
Almunia’s swift but undirected throw after catching the ball off Lampard was turned into possession by Chelsea. Bosingwa sent a low drive from the right into the box, and Johan Djourou harshly dealt and guided it into his own net.
Thoughts of another humiliating away thrashing on Arsenal were fancied as Scolari’s men enforced intentions of ending the half with the game already sealed. The hosts were mastering while Van Persie was one of few eager-looking Gunners vying to change matters as he pounced onto impossible chances which one eventually tested Petr Cech to save sideways.
Chelsea were still strolling after the restart even though Wenger’s men began to show some hunger forced into them by his dressing room urgency at the break. Lampard almost put things beyond doubt with an effort which flew just wide off the post.
The tradition of Arsenal’s game is; when down, a very unique source is demanded to revive. That’s either from some fortune in decisions by officials, and/or utter brilliance.
Well, both came in Arsenal’s way in the space of a stunning three minutes.
First, a rare hustle in Chelsea’s territory saw Denilson tip the ball acutely to Van Persie. The Dutchman then desperately stroke it into the top right corner of Petr Cech’s net. On another day, it would have been ruled offside with Van Persie a meter ahead when receiving the pass, but it stood – Arsenal had benefited from scarce lady luck after all.
The game had been turned on its head at Stamford Bridge, but it would soon be on its toes. Fabregas’ freekick was headed deeper by Adebayor in Chelsea’s area, and Van Persie, with his back in front goal, volleyed it past Cech’s full stretch.
It always needed such a staggering route to overturn Chelsea’s home, and what was most significant now, was holding on…just holding on.
Arsenal were still favored to gift this spectacular result on the cards. Mind you, exactly a month ago, the Gunners threw away a commanding two-goal lead in the dying moments in another London derby. That was even at the Emirates, and at Stamford Bridge they would dare to protect this advantage.
Indeed, Arsenal fairly pressed to better their blessings as much as Chelsea grew anxiety to search for an equalizer. Van Persie had a last clear-cut opportunity to register a dazzling hat-trick, but his free kick, twenty minutes from time, sailed just over the cross bar.
Again, Arsenal penetrated in the midst of Chelsea’s burst forward, and Bendtner who had replaced a below-par Adebayor set-up Denilson free on the right. But the Brazilian’s weak shot left Cech untroubled and Chelsea undead yet.
They did hold their nerves to hear the final whistle, and threw their shirts into the crowd of traveling Gooners – in celebration of a pivotal comeback.