10-man Arsenal undone once again by Diego Costa
Arsenal came off worst for the second time this season when they came up against Diego Costa.
As at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, Costa was the central figure at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.
Once again the Gunners were reduced to 10 men after a run-in with Costa
This time Per Mertesacker was sent off for bringing down Costa, who then grabbed the only goal of the match five minutes later to earn Chelsea the three points.
The result stretches Arsenal’s winless run against Chelsea to nine Premier League matches, and keeps them in third place in the Premier League table.
Arsenal are now three points behind leaders Leicester City, and tail second placed Manchester City on goal difference
It was the Gunners first home league defeat since the opening day of the campaign defeat to West Ham n August.
Both sides started brightly and there were early opportunities for goals at both ends of the itch.
Joel Campbell was unable to convert Theo Walcott’s cross, miscuing his shot when well placed.
At the other end Laurent Koscielny’s misplaced pass was pounced on by Oscar, but his shot was saved by Petr Cech.
Willian should have done better from a Nemanja Matic’s but his volley was heading was heading well wide before rebounding off Mertesacker, but was safely held by Cech.
The turning point of the match came in the 18th minute.
Theo Walcott’s wasblocked and fell to Willian, who played a pass behind Mertesacker for Costa to run onto with a clear path to goal.
The Arsenal skipper’s lack of pace was exposed and he tripped Costa.
Referee Mark Clattenburg showed Mertesacker a straight the red card.
Arsene Wenger responded by substituting Olivier Giroud for Gabriel.
To compound Arsenal’s misery five minutes later, Costa grabbed the decisive goal when he go onto the end of Branislav Ivanovic’s cross, to steer the ball past Cech.
Arsenal struggled to create any clear-cut openings as the match headed to the interval.
Walcott was judged to be offside a couple of times as the Gunners tried to find a way past the Chelsea rearguard.
But it was the Blues through Costa who came closest to adding a second goal, forcing another save from Cech.
On the stroke of half-time Aaron Ramsey’s lobbed through ball found Mathieu Flamini, unmarked on the six yard line, but he could sort his feet out and his volley went high over the bar.
The second half was largely a cagey tense affair.
Chelsea were content to sit deep and to try to catch Arsenal on the counter-attack.
Without Giroud, the Gunners were unable to get a foothold in the Chelsea half to sustain any pressure, with Mesut Ozil employed as the most attacking option.
Alexis Sanchez replaced Joel Campbell with half an hour remaining for his first appearance in almost two months.
The closest Arsenal cam to an equaliser was when Thibaut Courtois palmed Mesut Ozil’s free-kick onto his own defender’s back and the ball rolled loose, but nobody in a red shirt was able to force it into the net as it pin-balled around the area.
Arsenal had a final opportunity from an injury time corner. Petr Cech went forward, but the ball into the box was cleared by the Chelsea defence.
So Chelsea continue to hold the wood over Arsenal, even without Jose Mourinho in charge.
How decisive the contribution of Diego Costa in the two matches will have been to ruining Arsenal’s title ambitions is still to be determined.
The Gunners will now need to find a response to what has been a poor run of Premier League results if they are to maintain a challenge.
Arsenal: Cech 7; Bellerin 8, Mertesacker 5, Koscielny 7, Monreal 7; Ramsey 6, Flamini 7; Campbell 7 (Sanchez 57), Ozil 7, Walcott 6 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 75); Giroud 5 (Gabriel 20).