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Drogba double helps Chelsea show title credentials

sports Updated: Nov 30, 2009 00:23 IST
eurosoccer2009

Chelsea cemented their position on top of the Premier League and delivered a hammer blow to Arsenal's title hopes with an emphatic 3-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Carlo Ancelotti's side moved five points clear of second-placed Manchester United thanks to a decisive spell of two goals in four minutes before half-time.

Didier Drogba put Chelsea ahead with a fine finish from former Arsenal star Ashley Cole's cross, then Gunners defender Thomas Vermaelen turned another Cole delivery into his own net moments later.

Drogba rubbed salt into Arsenal's wounds with a brilliant free-kick in the closing stages to take his goal tally to eight in nine games.

The Blues, now unbeaten in nine matches in all competitions, have defeated 'big four' rivals United, Liverpool and Arsenal this season and are increasingly carrying the look of champions elect.

In stark contrast, Arsenal are now 11 points behind the leaders after their second successive league defeat. Arsene Wenger's side once again failed to produce on the big occasion as they suffered their first home loss since Chelsea won in north London in May.

Although Arsenal have been able to sweep aside some undemanding opposition during their recent 14-match unbeaten run, they had stumbed in their only two serious tests so far against Manchester United and Manchester City.

In an attempt to rid his players of any inferiority complex, Wenger had issued a stirring pre-match plea for his young team to rise the occasion and show that their moment has arrived.

They made a promising start as Cesc Fabregas and company snapped into tackles with relish. But without injured Dutch striker Robin van Persie, Arsenal lacked the cutting edge to break down Chelsea's rock-solid rearguard.

Chelsea were gradually able to exert more control in midfield and the tide began to turn in their favour.

Nicolas Anelka was first to threaten when he surged onto Frank Lampard's pass, only for Bacary Sagna, tugging at the Frenchman's shirt, to do just enough to make him miscue his shot.

After a hold-up in play to deal with a camera thrown onto the pitch from the Arsenal end, Drogba had a sight of goal. The Blues striker latched onto John Obi Mikel's cross, but could only head tamely at Manuel Almunia.

Arsenal's weakness for several seasons has been the soft centre at the heart of their defence and the visitors always looked capable of exploiting it.

It was no surprise when they did just that in the 41st minute.

John Terry started an eye-catching move with a perfectly weighted pass to Cole down the left and he teased Sagna before whipping a cross towards Drogba in the six-yard box.

As William Gallas and Vermaelen dithered, Drogba nipped into the space between them and flicked a first-time finish into the top corner with the outside of his boot.

Now the lack of belief that Wenger so feared began to seep back into Arsenal's play and they stood off Cole again with disastrous results four minutes later.

Cole, causing havoc down the left, curled over another dangerous cross and this time Vermaelen could only divert his attempted clearance into his own net from close range.

Wenger sent on England winger Theo Walcott in place of Alex Song at half-time and his change sparked Arsenal back into life.

The Gunners, who had won all 11 of their home matches this season, thought Andrey Arshavin had given them a lifeline when he smashed home from close-range, but the Russian's effort was ruled out by referee Andre Marriner for Eduardo's challenge on Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.

Arsenal were keeping Chelsea penned into their own half, but the Blues had clean-sheets in seven of their last eight games and Terry summed up their refusal to be breached with a superb challenge to deny Eduardo.

When Cole was substituted in the closing stages he departed with jeers from the Arsenal fans ringing in his ears and responded with a clenched fist gesture.

But the last word belonged to Drogba, who bent a superb free-kick past Almunia from 25 yards in the 86th minute.