Chelsea seal at least third-place with a win at Arsenal

Chelsea back to winning ways after a 4-1 win over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

FOOTBALL 2008-2009 Premier League Arsenal-Chelsea Alex scores - 0

Alex and Nicolas Anelka – playing against his former club – were on target during an entertaining opening period before Kolo Toure put past his own keeper to add a third just four minutes into the second half.

Substitute Nicklas Bendtner gave hope to Arsenal by pulling one back with 20 minutes remaining, but Florent Malouda’s late strike sealed all three points for Guus Hiddink’s side.

Victory saw Chelsea extend their lead over Arsenal to nine points with just two games remaining. And with third place safely in the bag, they are assured of entering next season’s Champions League group stage directly.

The Gunners meanwhile will have to settle for a fourth-placed finish – and the final Champions League qualifying round.

Arsenal bossed the early exchanges, enjoying more possession and creating the better chances, yet it was Chelsea who went in at the break two goals to the good.

The reasons for that statistic were two-fold – a lack of composure at one end, and two exquisite demonstrations of the art of finishing at the other.

While Arsenal huffed and puffed in the Chelsea half, Theo Walcott in particular causing a number of problems for the visitors’ defence, crucially they lacked a cool head in front of goal.

Walcott, for all his endeavour on the right wing, was as guilty as anyone and put three decent chances wide of the mark during the first half and a further one after the break.

Abou Diaby should also have done better on 12 minutes, slicing his effort wide after good work by Walcott, while Alexandre Song could only fire the wrong side of the post on the turn from close range after 24 minutes.

And the Gunners were made to pay when Alex showed them exactly how to do it, the Brazilian defender rising majestically to meet a free-kick on 28 minutes with a towering header from around the penalty spot that beat Lukasz Fabianski all ends up and crashed in off the underside of the bar.

Despite going behind, Arsenal continued to press forward and they nearly found an equaliser eight minutes after the opener went in, Robin van Persie seeing a neat flick cleared off the line by Jose Bosingwa.

Chelsea stood firm and they were rewarded with a second on 39 minutes, Anelka ghosting past Samir Nasri in midfield before surging forward and unleashing a swerving shot that found the bottom corner.

The former Gunner could have added to his own personal tally just before the half-time whistle, but Fabianski was equal to his first-time strike from Malouda’s cross.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger opted not to make any changes at the break, and Chelsea continued where they left off – celebrating a goal.

This time there was an element of fortune to the breakthrough, Toure the unfortunate player who slid in to meet Ashley Cole’s driven cross and divert it into his own net.

On the hour mark, Wenger finally decided to shuffle his pack, bringing on Bendtner for Diaby. The move invigorated the hosts and their attractive passing play was finally rewarded with a goal 10 minutes later, the Dane rising above Michael Essien to head home.

The goal gave the Gunners hope, and for another 10 minutes they were roared on by the home crowd in the hope of pulling back another goal to set up a grandstand finish.

Bendtner, again, and Robin van Persie both headed on target while substitute Emmanuel Adebayor had a loud penalty appeal waved away and Mikael Silvestre saw a close-range effort blocked by Cech.

But the hosts just could not breach the Chelsea back line, and their efforts were proved in vain when Malouda grabbed a fourth on 86 minutes, the Frenchman stabbing home from close range after his own initial effort had been saved and Anelka had hit the post with the follow up.

Replays showed Malouda to have been in an offside position when Anelka struck his shot, but with just four minutes remaining, had the goal been chalked off, the decision would probably have come too late to change the outcome of the game.

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~ by awbroady on May 11, 2009.

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