MIDFILED BATTLE: Chelsea's Ramires in action against Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal (right)
CHELSEA’S EURO stars shone brightly at Emirates Stadium as they deservedly beat Arsenal 2-1 this afternoon.
The champions of Europe just had too much savvy and skill for their opponents to put an end to Arsenal’s unbeaten start to the season.
The manner of Chelsea's 53rd minute winner, and their overall display, will disappoint Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. A Juan Mata free kick was fired into the home box and took a slight deflection off Laurent Koscielny and was to end up nestling in the home net.
Ironically, Arsenal had benched Per Mertessacker and replaced him with the more nimble Koscielny, who if the truth be known did not have one of his better games in red and white.
Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen returned too after a virus, and looked his normal calm self but his centre-half partner was just not at the races in what was a big game for both sides.
The first half was an even affair as the half-time 1-1 scoreline suggested. Save for a few long range efforts on goal, the two teams spent most of the opening period feeling each other out.
The visitors had come with a game plan. Both John Mikel Obi and Ramires were sitting just behind Chelsea’s plethora of attacking talent. Roberto di Matteo’s men were the more assured, their new status of European champions was sitting comfortably with them clearly.
They were to take the lead on 20 minutes after a free-kick into the Arsenal box and Fernando Torres outsmarted Koscielny to neatly stab home the game’s first goal.
Arsenal then belatedly decided to up their game.
Wenger's men got themselves back in the match in the 42nd minute when after a good break down Chelsea’s left, substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – who had replaced the injury-prone Abou Diaby - fired in a cross that Gervinho controlled at once, swivelled and fired home much to the delight of his team mates and fans.
The second period was punctuated by Arsenal raids into enemy territory but they were always worried by Chelsea’s counter attacks. The visitors had enough possession and chances to add to their tally.
Both clubs hit six in mid-week Capital One Cup romps. There were skilful, attacking players on display all over the park today.
An intriguing match up saw Santi Cazorla against Juan Mata - two little Spanish matadors who can side-step, spin and create fantasy football. Mata was the more effective today.
Chelsea had ‘keeper Petr Cech to thank in the second half. A one-handed save from the quiet Lukas Podolski, was key to game. But Arsenal will be concerned by the lack of work for Cech throughout the game.
In the dying minutes of extra time, Olivier Giroud had a gilt edged chance to snatch a point for his side but put his effort tamely into the side netting.
Having taken a deserved point off champions Manchester City last Sunday, Arsenal were not up to the task today while the Blues looked like potential champions such was their tight defence and lightning quick offensive raids.
You can normally get an indicator of the importance of a football match by the number of media in attendance.
The press room at Emirates Stadium was heaving prior to kick off. There were issues aplenty for the assembled press to get their teeth into. There was obviously the football between two unbeaten London sides, with designs on the title.
But add Chelsea captain John Terry’s return to the top flight fray after news of his four match ban and fine for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, plus the reappearance of ‘villain’ Ashley Cole in north London, and this capital clash had all the ingredients to be a Saturday afternoon cracker. Sadly, it did not deliver.
But Chelsea will be the happier of the two sides going forward.