Hector Bellerin’s injury time goal earns Arsenal a draw
Hector Bellerin scored in injury time to earn Arsenal a 2-2 draw with Chelsea in their Premier League clash at the Emirates Stadium this evening.
The result keeps the Gunners in 6th position in the Premier League table, with 39 points from 22 matches.
They are five points behind fourth place Liverpool who occupy the final Champions League spot.
Arsenal have avoided defeat against Chelsea in their two league meetings of the season (drawn two) for the first time since 2011-12.
Chelsea remain in 3rd position in the Premier League table, with 46 points from 22 matches.
The Blues are a point behind second place Manchester United and 16 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City.
In a topsy-turvy thrilling match the Gunners led, conceded an equaliser from the penalty spot, then went behind before Bellerin’s injury-time leveller.
Arsene Wenger made three changes to the side that faced West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on Sunday.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Rob Holding and Mesut Ozil replaced Sead Kolasinac, Laurent Koscielny and Alex Iwobi.
Any chance that the match might be a tight cagey affair like the first league between the sides in September, which ended goalless, was soon put to bed.
The match started frenetically and continued in the same fashion, as both sides created and missed a flurry of chances in equal measure.
The two sides created an incredible 33 chances between them, with Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois both producing excellent performances to restrict the number of goals scored to four.
Alvaro Morata set the tone for the evening early on by shooting wide with only Cech to beat, after the Arsenal defence had let him have a clear run on goal. .
At the other end Arsenal had appeals for a penalty for a trip on Maitland-Niles turned down by referee Anthony Taylor.
Moments later Alexis Sanchez had a shot tipped onto the post by Courtois. The ball rolled across the goal line hit the other post and rolled back into the grateful arms of the keeper.
It was that sort of night.
Courtois denied Alexandre Lacazette at one end and at the other Cesc Fabregas fired over the bar from the edge of the penalty area.
Marcos Alonso then put a free-kick over the bar from the edge of the penalty area.
Somehow the teams went into the break level and goalless.
Any chance that the match might become tighter after the break soon disappeared.
It was a surprise that the contest got to the 63rd minute, before the opening goal.
When it came it was worth the wait.
Jack Wilshere sent a left footed shot from the left edge of the penalty area into the net past Courtois.
It was Wilshere’s first goal in his last 43 Premier League games, since scoring against West Bromwich Albion in May 2015.
The midfielder put in another strong performance as he looks to earn a new contract.
Unfortunately, Arsenal are at their most vulnerable just after scoring.
It took Chelsea four minutes to draw level.
Referee Taylor adjudged that Bellerin had fouled Eden Hazard in the penalty area and pointed to the spot.
The Belgian took the spot-kick himself and beat Cech easily.
Arsene Wenger said after the match that the decision to award the penalty was “farcical”, adding “you could give 10 penalties like that a game”.
All 14 penalties that Cech has faced in the Premier League with Arsenal have now been scored.
The keeper also has to wait a little longer to record his 200th Premier League clean sheet.
It was the Gunners sixth match in 19 days and from leading they went behind with six minutes remaining, as some of the players visibly tired as the match went its closing stages.
Substitute Davide Zappacosta found space on the right and his cross was turned into the net past by Alonso.
Just when it seemed that Arsenal would begin the New Year with a defeat, Bellerin struck in the second minute of injury-time with a spectacular half-volley to earn the Gunners a point.
It was Bellerin’s first goal in his last 22 Premier League games, since netting in the final league match of last season against Everton.
There was still time for Cech to produce a save deny Morata in a one-one-one and from the rebound for Zappacosta’s shot to hit the top of the crossbar.
Next up for Arsenal is an FA Cup third round tie with Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Sunday.
Arsenal: Cech 7, Bellerin 7, Maitland-Niles 7, Holding 7, Mustafi 7, Chambers 6 (Walcott), Xhaka 7, Wilshere 8, Ozil 7, Sanchez 7, Lacazette 7 (Welbeck)