Chelsea played out a strategic stalemate as the visitors held Arsenal to a goalless draw at The Emirates.
Arsenal, likely to be Chelsea’s main rivals for the Premier League crown, knew they had to win to stand any real chance of the title. Chelsea equally knew that a win for them and they could be crowned champions within three more days.
But in the end a draw it was and Chelsea maintain their 10-point advantage at the top of the table, as Arsene Wenger still cannot manage to beat Mourinho on the 13th time of asking.
But the dull scoreline does not reflect what was actually an entertaining game. It may be argued that Chelsea set out to defend, what with no recognised striker in the starting line-up and Oscar deployed as the false nine, but there was no indication of Chelsea parking the bus in their play.
In fact, Chelsea would go on to record more shots on target than Arsenal, who have only managed to record one shot on target in both league encounters this season combined.
Oscar had the best chance of the opening stages when fed through by returnee Fabregas, who was greeted with hostility by his former club’s fans. The Brazilian ran onto the ball well and dinked it over Ospina, not without pain though as Ospina clattered the minute play-maker, who would make way at the end of the half with suspected concussion. The ball was cleared off the line, but Ospina should have gone and Chelsea should have had a penalty.
A second penalty claim followed from Fabregas, who went down easily but under definite contact. Oliver was right there at the scene but deemed it a dive, when really it was neither a dive nor a firm penalty.
Then came the big Chelsea moment. Willian worked the ball well and Ramires latched onto the end of his through-ball. A good first touch was quickly followed by a shot with the second touch with the outside of the right boot. It was tame and a more powerful shot on the left foot may have reaped greater returns.
Hazard scored just before half-time against Manchester United and had Ramires scored then, in the 38th minute, the complexion of the tie would have changed.
What would follow in the second half? More Arsenal probing and possession without the killer final ball.
Chelsea were all too comfortable and Hazard, who is odds-on favourite to be crowned PFA Player of the Year at tonight’s ceremony, tried his hand from the edge of the box. It flew high and wide.
Arsenal pressed and pressed for the winner; Welbeck came on for Coquelin in a clear showing of Wenger’s intent. Mertesacker should have scored when pivoting on the penalty spot but lashed his shot wide.
Monreal got behind and Terry had to do some last-ditch defending, but as Zouma came on in the dying moments, Chelsea saw out the draw, which will be valuable in the sense that it is another point closer to the title, but doubly valuable in that it stopped their closest rival gaining ground.
You can free up the April 29th date; it will not be party-time then. But May 3rd might.
What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!
Man of the Match
JOHN TERRY: The captain has not received much of my award this season (partly because Hazard’s been so good at the other end!) but you must give it to the man who is probably always the first name on the team-sheet. Terry is absolutely excelling and evidently hungry to lift the title again and, with a couple more sturdy defensive duties like this, it may just happen. 7/10
Mourinho was positive: “We tried to win. But the game was difficult, against a very good team and it was not possible to win. We had a game plan — in the first half we were very dangerous, in spite of Arsenal making lots of fouls to stop counter attacks.”
Wenger was resigned: “Chelsea will be champions. We know that. It is impossible to lose it now. In the first half we played with the right intensity but we lacked the right decisions. In the second half our intensity dropped and it was too comfortable for Chelsea.”