Arsenal’s title hopes suffered a major blow after they were beaten 6-0 at Chelsea on Saturday.
The prelude to this game was celebratory; Arsène Wenger was commemorating his 1000th game in charge.
However the party mood would last barely seven minutes. By then Samuel Eto’o and Andre Schurrle had scored to put Chelsea in control.
Just past the quarter-hour, the die was cast when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain handled Eden Hazard’s shot in the area. The Belgian scored from the spot but only after referee Andre Marriner had mistakenly sent off Kieran Gibbs.
Oscar added goals just before half-time and just after the hour. Mohamed Salah burst through to make it 6-0 in the 71st minute.
It was a chastening afternoon for Arsenal, who were well-beaten on the day.
All they can do is lick their wounds and move on to Tuesday’s game against Swansea.
SETTING THE SCENE
Wenger stuck with the side that had beaten Tottenham last weekend.
Tomas Rosicky had recovered from a hamstring concern to retain his place. Kim Kallstrom was involved in the squad for the first time since his loan move from Spartak Moscow.
That White Hart Lane win had gone a long way towards securing a place in the top four at the end of the season.
But if Arsenal were going to be in the title shake-up in the final few weeks they would have to snatch something at Stamford Bridge.
The start was frenetic and full of chances.
Before Eto’o put the home side in front, Chelsea might have beaten Wojciech Szczesny twice and Olivier Giroud forced a fine save from Petr Cech.
However, in the fifth minute, Schurrle broke clear and fed Eto’o. The Cameroonian checked and got the ball on his left foot before curling the ball beyond Szczesny into the far corner.
Arsenal had not settled and were trailing - Chelsea would capitalise.
Nemanja Matic found Schurrle on the corner of the area and his low cross-shot beat Szczesny before finding the far corner.
It had been a poor start from Arsenal and it just got worse.
In the 17th minute, Hazard’s shot was handled by the diving Oxlade-Chamberlain and referee Marriner pointed to the spot
However, in a case of mistaken identity, he dismissed Gibbs.
Hazard converted the penalty and Arsenal were utterly up against it.
Wenger withdrew Lukas Podolski to put on Thomas Vermaelen at left back.
Arsenal battled manfully in midfield but they were undermanned.
A deflected drive from David Luiz forced a fine reaction save from Szczesny. Just past the half-hour Schurrle did likewise from range.
Four minutes from the whistle, substitute Fernando Torres found the byline and squared the ball for Oscar to fire high into the net from six-yard.
Giroud found the side-netting and Rosicky found the midriff of Cech in the latter stages.
Wenger brought on Carl Jenkinson and Mathieu Flamini at the break. Laurent Koscielny and Oxlade-Chamberlain went off.
Chelsea started in the manner they had ended the first half. Torres weaved through and Vermaelen blocked his shot at the near post. Szczesny parried to deny Luiz after the defender had collected the rebound.
After that, Arsenal had a spell of control and Santi Cazorla’s cross-shot nearly found the far corner.
However they had been working hard to make up Chelsea’s extra man for approaching an hour. It would tell.
In the 66th minute Oscar’s drive beat Szczesny and found the far corner.
Five minutes later Salah was released through the middle and kept his cool slot home past Szczesny.
Chelsea pressed for more but, with the game long-since won, their edge had gone. Arsenal were just battling to stay afloat.
Vermaelen and Rosicky had late chances to get the visitors on the scoresheet.
But it has been a hugely disappointing afternoon for Arsenal.
Referee: Andre Marriner
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