Blues frustrated as Gunners leave it open for the Emirates

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Arsenal held on for a draw. AFP

Blues frustrated as Gunners leave it open for the Emirates

Patrick Power by Patrick Power @rfutbol - 0 +10k

Arsenal battled for a draw in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge, a draw that frustrated the hosts and means it will all be decided in the return fixture.

Arsenal were better in the first half, and Chelsea clearly dominated the second, but at the final whistle it was Arsene Wenger's side who celebrated a good result for the second leg at the Emirates.

Heading into the clash after being dumped out of the FA Cup by Championship strugglers Nottingham Forest and sitting in sixth place on the league table, the Gunners were aware that the Carabao Cup could not only represent their best chances of silverware this season, but also their pathway into European football the following term.

Without a host of key players, the Gunners played the ugly side of the game well. They broke down moves in midfield and kept Chelsea's main men quiet while looking compact and solid at the back. Wenger will certainly draw positives from the clash.

Cup competitions are being taken seriously by both Chelsea and Arsenal this season. With Manchester City cruising to the Premier League title, the battle is underway for the remaining trophies. And a cagey start from both sides gave the impression they were more worried about keeping the opposition at bay than about actually scoring at the other end.

Having set the bar pretty high after their thrilling league encounter at the Emirates, and though it was an even and rather competitive fixture at the Bridge, Chelsea and Arsenal lacked the flare and cutting edge in a game that was far from vintage. VAR made its Carabao Cup debut, after its official English debut in the FA Cup on Monday, and referee Martin Atkinson dealt comfortably with the few actions worthy of its consultation.

Still, Arsenal were the happiest of both sides at the break, having maintained their shape defensively and enjoyed one of the few openings of the first half. Lacazette fired over the bar after a delightful lobbed pass from Wilshere allowed him through on goal with only Courtois to beat.

- Chelsea had the chances -

The Blues failed to capitalise on their home advantage, dropping deep and allowing Arsenal possession. Chelsea still had the best chances, with Moses taking advantage of Maitland-Niles’ inexperience down the right flank. The Nigerian was offered no resistance when bursting forward and he rattled the base of Ospina’s post with a fierce left-footed effort.

Morata was allowed very little to work with, Mustafi subjecting the striker to a stern man marking that saw him draw plenty of free-kicks and bookings from the visitors, but he was unable to find the back of the net. He tried, though, failing to drive past Ospina from 20 yards and then hitting the side-netting from an acute angle.

The Blues will feel like they should have claimed an advantage for the return fixture in a frustrating second half for Conte's men, who wasted arguably the best chance of the game when Christensen headed over the bar from six yards. Moses and Fabregas tried their luck as most of the action took place in Arsenal's defensive third, but the game evntually petered out to the visitors' delight.

 

 

Patrick Power

Patrick Power

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