BY PAUL LAGAN
Hector Bellerin scored a late equaliser for 10-man Arsenal as the Blues were pegged back twice in a pulsating 2-2 draw at Stamford bridge tonight.
David Luiz was sent off for his last-man foul on Tammy Abraham on 28 minutes – Jorginho slotted home the spot kick.
The man advantage seemed like a heavy weight on the shoulders of the home side as they failed to capitalise. Instead their north London rivals took full advantage of a N’Golo Kante slip to equalise through wonder kid Gabriel Martinelli.
Chelsea thought they had nicked the winner through Cesar Azpilicueta late on only for Bellerin to produce a left-footer that perhaps Kepa could have got a hand to.
Chelsea’s inability to win, following on from their defeat to Newcastle at the weekend has added pressure on Chelsea to bring in striking support for Abraham and Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Hull City is looking like a banana skin match waiting to happen.
It was a pulsating, high-tempo start to the game, with spice and aggression to the fore.
The first effort of the game fell to Andreas Christensen. Antonio Rudiger’s glancing header from a corner smacked off the Danish centre-back and inched wide of Bernd Keno’s left upright after 10 minutes.
Then five minutes later,Tammy Abraham should have scored. It was a gilt-edged effort – a header from six yards out, that the striker somehow arrowed directly into Leno’s midriff.
Emerson was the first player in Stuart Attwell’s little book, on 21 minutes after he tripped Nicolas Pepe.
The Blues had eight corners in this time, but failed to make any of them count.
The game erupted on 25 minutes when Abraham found himself skipping past Leno in the Arsenal penalty area, David Luiz chased the striker and upended him for a penalty. Attwell sensing Abraham was the last man, then brandished a red card for the former Chelsea hero.
Jorginho, slotted home the spot kick with confidence.
With Chelsea piling on the pressure, Leno brilliantly parried a Callum Hudson-Odoi pile-driver on 32 minutes after a deft flick by Abraham set the winger up on the edge of the visitors’ area.
There were no changes from either side at half-time.
Arteta made his first change on 55 minutes – Mesut Ozil made way for Matteo Guendouzi.
Christensen received a yellow card on 59 minutes for needlessly upending Alexander Lacazette.
Disaster struck for the Blues on 64 minutes, when from their own corner, the ball fell loose to Martinelli who raced clear. N’Golo Kante sitting in the defensive position on the half way line then slipped allowing the fleet-footed striker to accelerate into the empty Chelsea half, and brilliantly slip the ball past Kepa to notch an unlikely equaliser.
Head coach Frank Lampard made an immediate change, Matteo Kovacic coming off with Ross Barkley coming on.
This was quickly followed by Mason Mount replacing the hapless Kante.
Leno was on hand to thwart Willian who tried a right-footed blaster, from the left on 73 minutes.
Lampard’s final throw of the die was to bring on a second striker Michy Batshuayi for Willian.
Leno then brilliantly finger-tipped a cute back header from Barkley with 11 minutes left on the clock
Arteta responding by bringing on Rob Holding for Pepe.
Incredibly after failing to put to the sword 10-man Arsenal, the Blues struck again with five minutes left.
Cesar Azpilicueta latched onto a Hudson-Odoi left wing cross and the Spain right back, beat the offside trap and half volleyed home from close range.
The lead lasted seconds with Bellerin chancing his luck from the edge of the box and he curled a wonderful, low left-footer wide of Kepa’s desperate but vain grasp.
Batshuayi had a great chance to restore the lead, but he sliced a Hudson-Odoi cross just wide of Leno’s goal.
That was the best it got for Chelsea – a point that feels like a defeat – for Arsenal, a point that feels like a victory.
Teams: Chelsea: Kepa, Rudiger, Christensen, Jorginho, Kante, Abraham, Willian, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi, Azpilicueta, Emerson
Subs: Caballero, Alonso, Barkley, Pedro, Zouma, Mount, Batshuayi
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Lacazette, Ozil, Torreira, Pepe, Mustafi, Luiz, Xhaka, Martinelli, Saka
Subs: Martinez, Ceballos, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Willock, Guendouzi, Nketiah
Referee: Stuart Attwell
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