Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea- Blues retain top spot as Gunners slip to first defeat
Arsenal fell to their first defeat of the season against Chelsea, as they were made to pay for two costly defensive errors in a pulsating London derby.
Fernando Torres opened the scoring mid-way through the first half as he stole in behind marker Laurent Koscielny to volley home.
The Gunners equalised just before the break thanks to Gervinho’s fine turn and finish, following a neat cut-back from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
That goal came against the run of the play and Arsenal looked the more likely to score next – but it was Chelsea who were to grab the winner as Juan Mata’s free kick found its way into the bottom corner of the net, following more poor defending from Koscielny.
The result was somewhat harsh on an Arsenal side which deserved a point from the encounter, but Arsène Wenger’s side only have themselves to blame after conceding two sloppy goals.
Both sides went into the game with an unbeaten record, and the match had added spice as it came shortly after the FA slapped John Terry with a four-match ban and a £220,000 fine for racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand.
Roberto Di Matteo opted to start with Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard just behind Torres in an attacking looking line-up, while Wenger brought back captain Thomas Vermaelen into the heart of defence in place of Per Mertesacker.
Chelsea started the better and were soon ahead as Torres easily evaded Koscielny to slam home a free kick.
The European champions should have doubled their lead when Torres broke free, but the Spanish striker only manage a fresh air-shot when bearing down on Vito Mannone’s goal.
Arsenal appeared disjointed in attack, not helped by the early loss of Abou Diaby to injury, but they did manage to get back on level terms thanks to a fine finish from Gervinho.
Oxlade-Chamberlain surged into the right-hand side of the box and found the Ivorian in space, and the former Lille striker made no mistake as he quickly turned and fired high into the roof of the net to send the home fans into raptures.
Chelsea soon regained their lead after the break, though, as a clumsy Vermaelen tackle gave the west Londoners a free kick 30 yards from goal.
Mata was clearly looking for a team-mate with his set piece, but the ball went all the way through into the net off of the knee of Koscielny.
The Gunners did mount a response and nearly found an equaliser from Lukas Podolski but the German’s looping header was well saved by Petr Čech.
The Czech keeper was again Chelsea’s saviour as he saved a deflected effort from Olivier Giroud.
Giroud had an even better chance to salvage something for the Gunners late on as he rounded Čech, but the Frenchman could only find the side-netting from a tight angle.
“It is unacceptable to give away goals like that in the big games,” Wenger told the BBC. “We can only blame ourselves. We lacked real authority and decisiveness at the back.”
Arsenal will be looking to get their season back on track when they play Olympiacos in the Champions League next week.
Laurence Taylor, football correspondent