Full-time - 90'
2 - 1
16:00 +00:00, March 23, 2008
Stamford Bridge, England
FULL-TIME: Who says Chelsea can't mix it with the big boys? Avram Grant answers a few critics and Chelsea are still very much in the hunt for the title. For Arsenal, a bad run of form just got worse and Arsene Wneger will be concerned that the wheels are coming off his slick machine at a crucial juncture of the season.
Drogba receives the ball and tempts the Arsenal players to make a challenge on him. Anelka then has the final touch of a famous Chelsea win...
Walcott has over-run the ball and Chelsea are in no hurry to take the resultant goal-kick.
Some rather pensive looking Arsenal fans in the away end. Still, no work tomorrow chaps so it's not all bad...
Nicholas Bendtner replaces Flamini and Joe Cole is applauded off as John Obi Mikel comes on.
Clichy stretches to keep the ball from going behind for a Chelsea corner. Arsenal have to dig deep in the next five minutes and at least slavage a point from this.
Flamini nutmegs Belletti down the left and then tries to find Adebayor. He can't, but the ball comes back to him and his header causes a bit of panic in the Chelsea defence but nothing more.
Drogba almost claims his hat-trick with a rasping low shot which brings a marvellous save from Almunia. The corner comes in and again Almunia is alert to make another block.
GOAL: It's that man again Drogba who puts the finishing touches to a fine header from substitute Anelka. The Frenchman finds his striking partner who is six yards out and who makes no mistake with his shot. Chelsea only have to hold out for a few more minutes now.
Theo Walcott appears to have sneaked on to the pitch without my noticing. I will attempt to deduce who he has replaced.
Diaby is muscled off the ball by Carvalho.
Diaby is tripped by Drogba but the ref was a bit quick blowing his whistle as the Arsenal man had momentum and an advantage.
Anelka's first telling part in the game is a disappointing one, as he hits a diagonal shot well wide of goal.
Lampard lofts a free-kick in the direction of John Terry who is so intent on keeping his eye on the ball that he has not noticed he has run off the pitch.
Hleb sets up Van Persie with a fine pass but the Dutchman is unsure whether to pass or shoot and ends up doing neither to the relief of the Chelsea defence.
GOAL: The ball breaks to Didier Drogba and he doesn't need a second invitation to drive the ball past Almunia from the edge of the penalty area. A crisp finish and Chelsea's title hopes are reignited.
For Arsenal, Bacary Sagna is replaced with Abou Diaby.
Ballack has been taken off for Belletti and Nicholas Anelka is now on against his old club.
Ballack completely scuffs a shot from eight yards out and he holds his head in his hands. He knows that was a good chance.
Meanwhile Carvalho has his head swathed in bandages after a clash of heads. He's made of stern stuff though and is soon back on the pitch. Sagna has been removed from the pitch to receive treatment.
Bacary Sagna has turned his ankle and is limping around very awkwardly. The goalscorer's afternoon could be at an end here.
Gallas hits a ball over the Arsenal crossbar but concedes the corner. Lampard takes it but Arsenal deal with it and clear the danger.
Chelsea respond quickly and the two Cole's create an opening, Joe crossing for Ashley who is well positioned at the far post but is unable to get a good connection on his header.
GOAL: Bacary Sagna nips in and hits a fantastic header from a difficult angle to open the scoring. He had his back to goal but somehow managed to get the angle on his header to elude Cudicini. A great time to score your first goal for your club.
Van Persie wins a corner for the Gunners which Fabregas prepares to take.
Arsenal break with Hleb but he runs out of options and checks back. They move the ball around searcing for another way through and Adebayor eventually manages a tame shot which is easy for Cudicini.
Drogba once more finds himself with only Almunia to beat after Makelele's clever through ball but Gallas races back and does enough to put the striker off as he prepared to pull the trigger.
Eboue makes a blatant deliberate handball which goes unpunished much to the rightful annoyance of Michael Essien.
John Terry easily wins a jump with Gallas and heads it in the direction of the gaol but Arsenal regain themselves to get the ball out. They do look vulnerable from set-pieces though.
This time Lampard finds Cole whose cross is blocked for a corner.
Joe Cole and Lampard combine on the edge of the Arsenal area with the latter just failing to reach the return ball from his England colleague.
The second half is underway and Arsenal have Chelsea on the back foot immeidately. Hleb hits a fine shot which is well stopped by Cudicini.
Joe Cole drives across a low ball ascross the Arsenal six yards line which requires Almunia to perform a painful looking splits manouvere in order to reach it, which he does.
A worried looking Toure protests his innocence as Kalou goes down under the weight of his challenge. Nothing wrong with that though says the Mr Clattenburg and play goes on.
Fabregas has a little game of keepy-uppy in the Chelsea penalty area, trying to win himself some room for a shot. There's none to be had though and the midfielder is crowded out.
Good save from Almunia as Ballack's bouncing shot from fifteen yards headed goalwards.
Kalou swings at the ball six yards from goal and makes firm contact with air. A great chance goes and Arsenal had plenty of cover to make sure he did not get a second stab at it.
Gallas hits the post from two yards out, stretching to meet a mis-hit header from Toure who had risen highest to meet an Arsenal corner. The flag was - wrongly - up for offside anyway so it would not have counted.
Frank Lampard needlessly clatters in to Cesc Fabregas as the young Spaniard was on the edge of his penalty area.
Adebayor comes wide and gets a cross in towards Hleb which Chelsea clear.
Michael Ballack is booked for mouthing off to the referee after he had tripped Hleb.
Essien puts in a tricky cross which is whipped between the Arsenal defence and Almunia. The Arsenal defenders resist the uarge to make contact with the ball, deciding it's safer to let it go on it's way.
Good work from Clichy down the left but his cutback does not reach Van Persie, it's intended recipient.
Adebayor fails to make a decent connection when he gets on the end of a cross then Eboue does likewise as his team-mate's failed shot finds it's way to him. A couple of reasonable half chances.
Toures shows great strength to hold off Drogba and wrestle possession from him.
Lampard overhits another pass straight out of play and looks a little out of sorts so far.
Oh dear Didier Drogba. John Terry hits a long ball up towards the big striker and Drogba is suddenly one on one with Almunia. He takes a touch too many, hesitiating when he should have shot, and the chance disappears as quickly as it presented itself.
Van Persie has another go from a similar distance and this time Cudicini has to be alert to get down and stop the shot.
Some good, close build-up play from the Blues but Drogba had just strayed offside as the ball came to him.
Eboue goes on a bit of a run then Fabregas finds Helb with a wonderful diagonal pass. Hleb's cross in to the Chelsea box though is behind everyone and Chelsea get it clear.
Cudicini has come tearing out of his area and Eboue tries to take advantage with a cunning long range looping shot. It lacks distance and accuracy though, both important.
Cole feeds Essien down the right but Clichy tracks his run and shepherds the ball out for a goal-kick.
At the other end, Joe Cole shows good feet and then tests Almunia from distance. The keeper is well placed again though to take the shot cleanly.
The ball breaks to Van Persie on the edge of the area after good work from Hleb. He swings wildly at the ball and his shot arcs well wide. He had a clean sight of goal though so will be annoyed at the effort.
Great play from Makelele as he wins a tackle in defence then brings the ball out, skipping over a couple of challenges as he does so. A shame then that the ball is quickly lost when he releases it.
Now Ballack rushes and overhits a ball. Less haste Michael...
Puzzling pass from Frank Lampard as he hits a long ball in the general direction of nobody.
Wasteful pass from Sagna who, in a promising position, had both the time and space to find an Arsenal man but instead finds the advertising hoardings.
Arsenal knock it around lazily and up the pace a bit when they get close to the Chelsea penalty area but the move fizzles out as the concede possession.
Chelsea try again and this time Ballack bends it round the wall but not round Manuel Almunia who moves to his left to block his effort.
Drogba, fully recovered, takes the free-kick but naughty Emmanuel Eboue has advanced to within about two inches of him and is booked for infringing on the free-kick.
Neat turn by Drogba which fools Gallas. Drogba then drops to the floor in a theatrical manner but the ref likes what he sees and gives the free-kick.
Joe Cole's cross from wide right headed out by Flamini.
Van Persie hits a hopeful cross in from the left but is unable to pick out a team mate in the Chelsea box.
Arsenal kick off and their first attack brings a throw. William Gallas first touch is warmly received by the home crowd and Chelsea then concede the first free-kick of the day.
The players emerge out in to the west London air, and if the last couple of days are anything to go by the capricious elements could throw up snow, hail, wind, rain and sunshine in the next couple of hours. A handshake shared between the two managers and the referee 'has a word' with the two captains beforehand. No Mascherano's please, perhaps the hopes he was imparting.
Michael Ballack starts in midfield but all eyes wil be on Joe Cole who could have a big say in the outcome of this game. Arsenal stick with the team who slipped up against Middlesbrough last week.
Chelsea know that if they are to lose their formidable unbeaten home record this afternoon then they will also realistically be conceding their pursuit of the Premier League this season.
Now that Liverpool's slim title hopes have evaporated, Arsenal and Chelsea will be hoping their respective challenges do not suffer a smiliar blow at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.
John Mikel Obi
John Mikel Obi
Robin Van Persie