Update: Get a full match report and highlights here.
It’s difficult to imagine how Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th match in charge of Arsenal could have begun any more ignominiously. In what Wenger also described as their “most important” game of the season, Arsenal found themselves 3-0 down and a man down to Chelsea inside the first 17 minutes at Stamford Bridge.
Painfully for Arsenal, all three goals followed the same pattern, with the visitors being caught in possession and then being left wide open to trademark, devastating Chelsea counter-attacks. The first blow arrived just five minutes in. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, beginning a personally tumultuous few minutes, was the central culprit when conceding possession. Andre Schurrle then had the freedom to drive forward through a vacant Arsenal midfield before laying it off to Samuel Eto’o. The veteran striker expertly cut inside and then curled a delightful shot into the far corner of the net.
Just over two minutes later, a strike of remarkable similarity had Chelsea two goals to the good. This time it was Santi Cazorla who lost the ball to Nemanja Matic. Again Schurrle capitalized and this time went it alone with a low drive into the far corner of the net from the edge of the box.
The punishment kept coming, with the third goal coming in bizarre circumstances. By that point Fernando Torres had replaced the injured Eto’o and from the Spaniard’s lay back, Hazard’s shot had appeared to be heading wide, but was helped on its way by an outstretched hand from Oxlade-Chamberlain on the line. There was no choice but to produce a red card, but referee Andre Marriner, in a ridiculous case of mistaken identity, instead showed it to to Kieran Gibbs.
The fact remained that Arsenal were a man down and seconds later they were three goals down when Hazard sent home the penalty. The pace of the match died down but Chelsea weren’t done for the first half and made it 4-0 heading into the interval when Oscar finished form Torres’s cross.
A win for Chelsea would put them seven points clear of Arsenal, albeit having played a game more, and surely end the Gunners’ Premier League title hopes.