Arsenal succumbed to a 3-1 defeat to Premier League leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this afternoon, with the Gunners lagging behind their London rivals by 12 points.
A controversial goal from Marcos Alonso and an Eden Hazard solo effort charged the Blues to a 2-0 lead, whereas Cesc Fàbregas’ late third reduced Olivier Giroud’s goal to a mere consolation before the referee’s final whistle.
The north Londoners, off the back of a 2-1 defeat at home to Watford, were braced for an uphill battle against Antonio Conte’s men from the beginning, as the absences of Santi Cazorla, Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Aaron Ramsey depleted the away side’s midfield.
Nevertheless, it was Arsenal who started brightest, as Alex Iwobi tried his luck early before David Luiz’s intervention.
At the other end, Gary Cahill registered Chelsea’s first opportunity from Hazard’s free kick, but the English defender’s header into the ground floated harmlessly over Petr Čech’s net.
The Blues weren’t as forgiving the second time around inside the box, however, as Diego Costa’s initial attempt at goal was followed up Marcos Alonso’s headed rebound in the 13th minute, but the Gunners had a strong case against the Spaniard’s goal.
Replays showed Alonso landing an elbow against Héctor Bellerín’s head as he rose for the opener, but the referee, Martin Atkinson, ignored such claims when validating the goal.
Chelsea’s domination continued, as both Pedro and Costa threatened Čech’s goal, whereas Gabriel Paulista almost clawed a goal back for Arsenal with a free header inside the hosts’ area, but the Brazilian’s attempt fell within Thibaut Courtois’ reach.
The Gunners also offered renewed hope on the brink of half time, as Francis Coquelin switched the ball wide from the edge of the box to an unmarked Mesut Özil, with the German cutting back inside before attempting and failing to surprise Courtois at his near post with a shot.
Hazard killed off much of the hope stored by Arsenal, however, as play resumed for the second half, gliding past a handful of bodies en route to completing a solo effort with Chelsea’s second goal of the game in the 53rd minute.
As Arsène Wenger’s men looked susceptible to the counter, the league leaders looked the likeliest to grab the all-important third goal of the game, but second-half substitute Danny Welbeck came close to averting that trend with a low header at goal, later parried away by Courtois.
From the subsequent corner, Shkodran Mustafi almost bagged Arsenal’s first goal of the day himself when attacking the near-post unattended, but the German’s header flew just wide of the mark.
With five minutes of the 90 left to play out, Chelsea landed the killer blow through Fàbregas, as Čech’s miscalculated pass found itself to the ex-Arsenal man’s feet who needed no invitation to lob the Gunners shot-stopper and amplify the score line to 3-0.
Olivier Giroud picked up the visitors’ only goal of the game within stoppage time with a headed effort inside the box, as the clash concluded itself at 3-1 to Chelsea.
Arsenal Player Ratings:
Petr Čech (3); Héctor Bellerín (4), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Laurent Koscielny (6), Nacho Monreal (6); Francis Coquelin (3), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (4); Theo Walcott (4), Mesut Özil (4), Alex Iwobi (5); Alexis Sanchez (4)
Gabriel Paulista (4); Danny Welbeck (4); Olivier Giroud (5)
By Patrick Ribeiro