Late drama at the Emirates

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The second-half drama unfolds at the Emirates on January 3 2018, as seen from the press box


It was a rollercoaster ride at the Emirates for the eagerly awaited post-New Year Arsenal v Chelsea clash, with the balance of the game twisting and turning right into stoppage time.

In the end, a 2-2 draw was probably about right, although Arsenal just shaded it in terms of attacking chances in a match which generated 33 scoring attempts.

It was lively, relentless and utterly absorbing, and all you can do is pity the hundreds of Gooners who slinked away before the final whistle and therefore missed the late Arsenal equaliser with barely a minute and a half of stoppage time remaining.

Despite his post-match defence of Alvaro Morata (and he could scarcely do otherwise), Tony Conte knows he does not have the real deal up front with his No9. Morata missed chance after chance, and seemed leaden-footed when he needed a half-yard turn of pace.

He spends a goodly chunk of each game sitting on his arsenal; tetchily complaining to the referee every time he lands on the deck, instead of getting up and getting on with it.

In that respect he resembles Diego Costa; another gifted player with an addiction to long sulk/moans. But unlike Costa, Morata lacks the physical oomph to compensate and counterbalance this irritating continental habit.

It was a game that provided a commentator’s dream; the substitution of Eden Hazard in the 82nd minute, allowing anyone with a sprinkle of wit to declare: ‘The left back’s Holding, the substitute’s Willian.’

It was 0-0 at half-time, with Jack Wilshere putting Arsenal ahead in the 63rd minute, firing into the roof of the net to beat Thibaut Courtois.

Hazard’s foot was booted in the box by Hector Bellerin three minutes later, with Anthony Taylor’s awarding of a penalty – converted by Hazard – prompting the predictable outcry from Arsene Wenger. Had Bellerin taken a chainsaw to Hazard’s legs, Wenger would have somehow justified it.

Chelsea grabbed what looked like the winner with five minutes remaining, Marcos Alonso (he of the new chant to Heartbeat – Marcos, Marcos Alonso runs down the wing for me – do, do, do, do, do…) diverted Davide Zappacosta’s cross past Petr Cech.

Zappacosta, for all the sceptical remarks you hear in the queue for Fulham Broadway tube after any home game, is turning into a very effective supersub.

The final twist was two minutes into stoppage time, as Chelsea clung on. Bellerin atoned for giving away the pen by equalising on a chilly, windswept but immensely entertaining night.

It’s Norwich next, at Carrow Road in the FA Cup.

And Chelsea next meet Arsenal when the ladies play on Sunday lunchtime at Kingston. Tickets still available. Visit for news.