Chelsea stay clear at the top after hitting 10-man Arsenal for six
14:39 22 March 2014
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Chelsea 6 Arsenal 0
Chelsea strengthened their grip at the top of the Premier League as they handed title rivals Arsenal a humiliating beating at Stamford Bridge.
Oscar scored twice, with Samuel Eto’o, Andre Schurrle, Eden Hazard and Mohamed Salah also on target as Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th game in charge of the Gunners quickly disintegrated into a nightmare.
And the one-sided contest will also be remembered for referee Andre Marriner’s atrocious decision to send off Arsenal left-back Kieran Gibbs for an offence committed by his team-mate, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
A defensive error from Laurent Koscielny almost gifted Chelsea the lead as early as the third minute, but Wojciech Szczesny got there just in time before Eto’o could pounce.
At the other end, Petr Cech was called into action when Tomas Rosicky found space and threaded a ball for Olivier Giroud, whose first-time shot forced a low stop from the Blues goalkeeper.
But Chelsea broke almost immediately, with Schurrle carving a path through the middle of the park and picking out Eto’o, who turned Oxlade-Chamberlain and dispatched a left-foot finish beyond Szczesny.
The home side doubled their advantage just two minutes later as Nemanja Matic caught Santi Cazorla in possession and found Schurrle, who drilled a shot through the legs of Koscielny.
Although Eto’o limped off soon afterwards, it made little difference to the flow of the game as his replacement, Fernando Torres, scampered away on the break and set up Hazard.
The Belgian’s shot was tipped behind by the diving Oxlade-Chamberlain – yet, incredibly, Marriner flourished his red card in the direction of the incredulous Gibbs, who was forced to leave the field.
Hazard slotted in the penalty to make it 3-0 with just 17 minutes on the clock – and from then on it was a question of how many Chelsea would score against the Gunners’ remaining 10 men.
Szczesny kept out a deflected effort from David Luiz, but he was beaten again three minutes before half-time as Torres got clear on the right flank and crossed for Oscar to smash into the roof of the net.
At the other end, Giroud found the side netting and, soon after the restart, Rosicky set up Cazorla for an angled effort that drifted fractionally wide of the far post.
But Chelsea rarely allowed their grip to slacken and it needed a sliding challenge from Per Mertesacker to deny Torres, while Oscar sent a drive dipping just over the crossbar.
It was the Brazilian midfielder who grabbed his side’s fifth goal midway through the second half, firing a low drive that slipped beyond Szczesny after Rosicky had given the ball away.
Oscar then made way for Salah – who rubbed salt into Arsenal’s wounds by running onto Matic’s pass and slotting home his first Chelsea goal to make it 6-0.
Salah and Schurrle might both have inflicted further punishment on the weary Gunners late on, while Rosicky almost added a consolation goal as his drive brought a save from Cech in added time.
None of it would have made much difference, however, as Chelsea stayed clear in pole position with a resounding win that surely knocks Arsenal out of title contention.
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Luiz (Mikel 72); Schurrle, Oscar (Salah 67), Schurrle; Eto’o (Torres 10).
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny (Jenkinson 45), Gibbs; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Flamini 45), Arteta; Cazorla, Rosicky, Podolski (Vermaelen 23); Giroud.