BY PAUL LAGAN
Marcos Alonso was the coolest man in Stamford Bridge as he slotted home a dramatic winner as Chelsea, 2-0 up and the pulled back to 2-2 beat Arsenal 3-2 to top the Premier League this afternoon at Stamford Bridge.
The Spain defender ghosted into the Arsenal penalty area with 10 minutes left on the clock – both sides suffering with tiredness after an exhausting 80 minutes of pin-ball football.
He swung his left leg out to meet an inch-perfect Eden Hazard byline cutback and directed the low ball past a desperately diving Petr Cech.
Arsenal were crestfallen. They had hauled themselves back in to the game after a pulsating first 45 minutes which saw Pedro and Alvaro Morata blast the west Londoners into a seemingly unassailable lead. But they fought valiantly and two porous defences allowed the net to bulge almost non-stop. With Henriikh Mkhitaryan and then Alex Iwobi brought them to parity.
Kepa Arrizabalaga had the first save of the day, a weak daisy-cutter from Alex Iwobi.
David Luiz tried his luck from 30-yards three minutes later, but the ball sailed over Petr Cech’ s crossbar and deep into the Shed end.
Pedro, had a go seconds later with similar result – Perhaps had coach Maurizio Sarri’s had told the players to test Cech early. A beautiful clipped through ball by Jorginho almost found in-running Ross Barkley, but the ex-Everton man just failed to grab the ball and it went out for a goal kick. Mesut Ozil had a great chance on eight minutes but his side-footed half-volley inched wide.
A minute later and the Blues went ahead when Pedro got onto a fine byline pass from Alonso ands lotted home from the six-yard box past Cech. But it was the exquisite defence-splitting pass by Jorginho to Alonso that curled around Hector Bellerin – beating the high line of the Arsenal defence that was the north Londoner’ undoing.
The Blues should have doubled their lad on 13 minutes , when again the ball was clipped over the Arsenal defence – this time by David Luiz, N’Golo Kante picked it up, side-footed to Barkley who smashed a left-footer just over the bar.
Pierrre-Emerick Aubameyang forced Kepa into a low save by his right post on 18 minutes as Arsenal attempted to get a foothold back into the game.
Aubameyang missed an absolute sitters two min utes later when Bellerin cut the ball back to the German who slashed the ball over the goal.
A minute later and Chelsea did double the lead – and striker Alvaro Morata scored. A long ball by Cesar Azpilicueta saw Morata outpace Shkodran Mustafi, twist him into the ground, before plonking the ball past Cech.
Such was Arsenal’s growing frustration that Granit Xhaka hacked down Pedro in midfield and got a yellow card from Martin Atkinson. Mkhitaryan did a Aubameyang on 32 minutes, slashing the ball over the Chelsea crossbar from eight yards out after the Chelsea defence were undone by a smart passing move.
Neither side’s defence are particularly solid and Kepa will be frustrated that he failed to parry away Mkhitaryan’s shot from the edge of the Chelsea penalty area which smacked the Spain goalkeeper’s fingers and ended up in the back of the net to reduce the deficit to one on 37 minutes.
Cech produced a wonder save to tip away from goal a piledriver by Morata as the striker’s confidence appeared to be restored.
The equaliser was always on the cards and it duly came from the boot of Iwobi four minutes from half time.
Mkhitaryan cut the ball back from the byline after Chelsea’s left side was once again exposed and Iwobi did what Arsenal twice failed to do and he lashed the ball high into the back of Kepa’ s net.
Quite how Aubameyang failed to go into the lead two minutes later is anyone’s guess. Once again, ball-watching Chelsea allowed the striker the freedom of their six-yard box, but he scuffed a simple left-footer and it inched wide of Kepa’s goal.
Before the whistle went for half-time, Iwobi entered the striker’s book for missing sitters when he blasted over when free in the area.
The restart was almost a rerun of the first half, neither side able to play out from the back successfully. Chelsea thought they had a penalty on 52 minutes when a Kante shot was stopped by Socrates, bu the ball touched his hand as he twisted on the ground. Atkinson was adamant it was not a penalty.
Barkley produced a fine piece of power running and unleashed a venomous shot, on 57 minutes, which Cech did well to tip around the post.
Sarri opted to bring on Eden hazard and loanee from Real Madrid Mateo Kovacic on 60m minute’s – Barkley and Willian made way fo the duo.
Ozil was hauled off for Aaron Ramsey on 68 minutes.
David Luiz saw a trademark dipping freekick saved well by Cech ad the Blues looked to reap request for their dominance of possession.
Alexander Lacazette replaced Iwobi on 75, with Morata replaced by Olivier Giroud. A Kante header inched over the crossbar as both sides went for the winner. And with 10 minutes left on the clock, up popped Marcos Alonso to slip his marker and sleep walk into the six-yard box. A perfect Hazard cut back, on the left after an excellent run, fell perfectly to the Spain defender and he stroked the ball home comfortably past Cech to restore Chelsea’s lead.
Cech thwarted Hazard, as the belgium looked to knock the ball past him. But the ex-Blue was too canny for his former team-mate.
It was a fantastic game of attacking football, with periods of terrible defending. But the bragging right are now firmly in west London.
Arrizabalaga, Rudiger, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, barkley, Pedro, Willian, Azpilicueta, Morata, Luiz
caballero, hazard, Moses, Kovacic, Giroud, Zappacosta, Christensen
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Socratic, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang, Iwobi, Montreal, Mustafi, Guendouzi, Xhaka
Subs: Leno, Elneny, Ramsey, Lacazette, Torreira, Lichsteiner, Welbeck
Referee: Martin Atkinson