Chelsea hold on to keep Gunners out

Updated: April 21, 2012

For the second time in less than three days, Chelsea were over run but managed to keep their superior opponents at bay.

The result will probably be best received at Tottenham and Newcastle, as the battle for UEFA Champions League qualification looks set to go right down to the wire.

Whilst Arsenal were not as rampant as Barcelona were at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, the side from north London (similarly to the Catalans) hit the Chelsea woodwork twice during the lunchtime 90 minutes at the Emirates.

It was in truth an uninspired third versus sixth Premier League clash but Chelsea showed great resilience to frustrate Arsene Wenger’s and the Blues occasionally threatened on the counter-attack.

The previous encounter between these two this season finished in a 3-5 win for the Gunners in west London, but the managers would not have been pleased with the respective defensive displays on that occasion and this tie was always likely to be more cautious with both sides knowing that defeat (certainly for Chelsea) could cost them a Champions League qualification berth for next season.

If Chelsea win the Champions League and finish outside the top four in the Premier League, then, they will deny the fourth placed Premier League team a place in next season’s Champions League.  It seemed clear which competition Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo was prioritizing as he kept only three starters from the XI which somehow held out Barcelona’s galaxy of stars in midweek ahead of next week’s trip to Camp Nou.

Arsenal looked the fresher early on as they looked to bounce back from Monday’s shock home defeat to Wigan with Tomas Rosicky having a chance in the opening ten minutes that he should have done better from instead of forcing Petr Cech into an easy catch.

The Chelsea players who missed out in midweek were looking lively however with Fernando Torres sending a good four-on-three chance astray and having a penalty claim turned down in the opening  quarter.

Robin Van Persie then had the best chance of the 90 minutes when Theo Walcott’s terrific free-kick found the Dutch man at the back post but he somehow poked wide off the post from three yards out.

Aside from a few half chances for the visitors; Arsenal continued to dominate with Koscielny thumping a header onto the Chelsea crossbar and Van Persie fired straight at Cech shortly before half-time.

The second-half continued in a similar vein with clear cut chances few and far between.  The visitors did get more into the game as the second-half wore on though and Arsenal had a few hairy moments as they continued to play a high defensive line.

Walcott then pulled up injured  to be replaced by Gervinho in what will be worrying news for Arsenal and England at this stage of the season.

Gervinho immediately posed problems with a run but their was a lack of quality in the attacking third at both ends and Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo decided to shuffle his pack by introducing big names Juan Mata, John Obi Mikel and former Arsenal full-back Ashley Cole.

Mata soon put the ball in the net but it was disallowed and that was the last incident of note before the game petered out in the last few minutes.

Arsenal will need to do better if they are to maintain their third place in the Premier League until the end of the season while Chelsea will have to improve considerably if they are to have any chance of overcoming Barcelona in next Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final.

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