By Gary Watton
February 4 2017
Runaway leaders Chelsea delivered three knockout blows to Arsenil's evaporating hopes of Premiership glory in 2017.
First of all came a goal made in Spain. The improving Pedro whipped in a first class delivery from the right flank which his compatriot, the erratic Costa, managed to head against the bar. However, following up was their fellow-countryman Marcus Alonso who then had the simple task of outjumping Bellerin to head into an empty net from close range. Then, early in the second half, Eden Hazard doubled the home advantage with a goal that will live long in the memory and equally haunt the Gooners for years to come. Picking up the ball inside his own half, Hazard proceeded on a meandering, mesmerising run in which he outmuscled the Arsenic midfield and then wrongfooted their defence before slotting past the despairing dive of big Cech. It was a wonder goal which draws comparison with vintage Maradona or Messi or George Best. Then, the happy occasion just got even happier when Cech gifted Fabregas a third goal when he mistakenly played an attempted clearance into the path of the Spanish maestro. Cesc immediately proceeded to instinctively lob the ball back into the net with the speed of thought and skill that few others possess. All that remained was for substitute Giroud to score his customary goal in added-on time, but it was too little, too late.
Later on, Liverfools kindly joined Arsenic in the Premiership race's departure lounge, losing yet again, this time to struggling Hull City. Only Tottenham, thinks me, can stop a Chelsea Premiership success story, and even they are clinging onto the leaders by their norf London fingertips. Chelsea have done exceptionally well to cultivate a nine point gap already by early February. They will have to do equally 'well' to sabotage their Premiership hopes from this extremely healthy position.
Below is my brief analysis of the main participants in Saturday's glorious drama:
Courtois made a few fine saves, especially one world class stop in the second half which prevented a certain goal.
Azpilicueta had a stormer, making interceptions and tackles and turning defence into attack.
Cahill produced a characteristically wholehearted performance.
David Luiz played his part in a solid defence.
Alonso scored the precious opener, having the presence of mind to get into the penalty area.
Moses defended quite well and was brilliant when attacking with ball at his feet.
Kante, like Azpilicueta, was constantly intercepting and launching counter attacks.
Matic was an efficient barrier in midfield, a calming influence in such an important derby.
Pedro created the first goal with a masterful cross. He is playing with much confidence now.
Hazard scored a solo goal that he will always be associated with. His work rate and elusive running was absolute top drawer.
Costa denied his team two more possible goals when greedily ignoring Pedro and then Willian. He also lost the ball too often but he was always a willing runner.
Fabregas did the right thing by trying to score for his current employers and then not celebrating against his former employers.
Cech produced a very accurate defence-splitting pass. (Defence? What defence?)
Bellerin - on life support machine, following emergency surgery, after being violently outjumped by the taller Alonso.
Koscielny - a spectator
Mustafi - close to tears on a couple of occasions
Coquelin - a spectator
Iwobi - missing in action
Ozil - paid about 150k per week to take corner kicks and free kicks. Otherwise he was another anonymity.
Oxlade-Chamberlain - plenty of energy in the first half but gradually he too became a spectator
Walcott - out of his depth
Sanchez - a spectator
Monreal - the only Arsenal player who carried any threat and who played with much urgency
CHELSEA 3 Arsenal 1; half time: 1-0
CHELSEA goal scorers: Alonso; Hazard; Fabregas
CHELSEA team: Courtois; Azpilicueta; Luiz; Kante; Matic; Cahill; Alonso; Moses; Costa; Hazard; Pedro. Used substitutes: Willian; Fabregas; Zouma
CHELSEA leading scorers:
Costa fifteen goals
Hazard ten goals (including two penalties)
Pedro eight goals
Willian six goals
Batshuayi five goals (including one penalty)
Alonso four goals
Cahill four goals
Fabregas four goals
Moses four goals