At the end of 94 minutes, John Terry let out a huge cry. A cry of victory. Even though it was only a point picked up, it felt like three for the men from west London. The point means Chelsea need just 5 points from their remaining 5 games to lift the hallowed trophy. Arsenal, on the other hand, were on the wrong end of a determined team that was not going to let anything past it.
Even though Chelsea did not a park the busa in the proverbial sense, they did pull the handbrake on it from time to time. As full time approached and Kurt Zouma was brought on for Cesc Fabregas, the Emirates sang a boring, boring Chelseaa . Sometimes boring yes, but so effective that it wins league titles for them. Their season has now transitioned from being ruthless earlier to being shrewd now. If they were a classy, all-conquering Aston Martin at the beginning of the season, they are now a rugged old truck that just refuses to give way.
And driving that truck yesterday was club captain Terry. He epitomized the Bluesa resilience and put in tackles, blocks and headers with usual ferocity. Adored by Chelsea fans and abhorred by all others, the former England captain just showed that age has nothing to do with the will, the determination to win. Jose Mourinho called it a his (Terrya s) best performance under my managementa . No one better to vouch for his performance than French forward Olivier Giroud, who just could not get one past the wily center back.
The Portuguesea s penchant for surprising us just doesna t go away and in spite of having Didier Drogba available a even though not fully fit a and 17-year-old youth prodigy Dominic Solanke also rested over the weekend, he started with Oscar as the furthest forward player. Arsenal have been steamrolling all opponents since the turn of the year and not surprisingly, they started with the same team that took on Burnley two weeks ago.
Even though Arsenal had a majority of the possession and the better quality of attacks throughout the match, Chelsea came the closest to scoring. Referee Michael Oliver denied at least two penalty claims by the Blues and one handball appeal from the Gunners, taking his I-am-not-giving-away-a-penalty count to three. One of those claims, much to the delight of the home fans, ended with a yellow card for the returning Cesc Fabregas for diving instead of being pointed to the penalty spot.
Although those claims were all 50-50, David Ospinaa s challenge on Oscar looked like a spot-on penalty. Chasing a dink from Fabregas, Oscar rushed in to beat Ospina to the ball and was clattered by the goalkeeper in the follow-up. A challenge that any NFL linebacker would have been proud of, Oliver deemed it as fair and the game moved on. Oscar was, however, later deemed to suffer from concussion and was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Perhaps the best chance of the match came in the 38th minute when Willian fed in a defence-splitting through ball to Ramires who was open on goal. The Braziliana s shot, however, was weak and failed to trouble David Ospina. Arsenal also began to get into the game and shots from Mesut Ozil troubled Thibaut Courtois but not enough to get past him.
As the concussed Oscar was taken off at half-time, on came Didier Drogba whose record against Arsenal does not make any Gunner fan happy. Even though he clearly hasna t got the legs any more, Mourinho must have brought him on for his physicality a not only in attack but also while defending. Like always, the Ivorian put in a massive shift and helped his beloved Blues hold on for a hugely important point.
The second half lacked the intensity of the first. Per Mertesacker with a shot on goal and Danny Welbecka s scuffed attempt were the highlights of the second period. Even though Chelsea did not produce a shot on target in the second half, they put in a defensive shift and as time ticked by, everyone knew the result Chelsea were after. As though that was not clear enough, bringing on Zouma for Fabregas late in the second half sealed the deal. Chelsea were not going to budge and not going away with less than a point from the Emirates.
Arsenal clearly dominated the match statistics wise. They had 57% of the possession, had 12 shots as opposed to the 7 managed by Chelsea and even managed to get the better pass accuracy (86% to 75%). Yet, like the Gunners we know, they tried to pass the ball into the net and hit a proverbial wall in Terry.
Speaking of statistics, Mourinhoa s record against Arsene Wenger now reads 13-0 (7 wins, 6 draws). The experienced Frenchman has many claims to fame over the years, but getting one past the Portuguese is the one thing he cannot seem to do. Admittedly, this wasna t the best Chelsea performance that Wenger has seen put in against him; the Frenchman also knows that this is what had to be done. Winning a championship, they say, after all is not a sprint but a marathon.