Arsenal fell behind one nil to hated rival Chelsea in the Carabao Cup semifinal. My Gunners scored the next two goals to beat the Blues 2-1 to advance to the finals of the Carabao Cup where the guys will battle Man Shitty.
The Daily Mail:” A goal and an assist. Not the worst night for Antonio Rudiger. Unfortunately…
The goal was Arsenal’s first-half equaliser; the assist, their second-half winner. Not that Rudiger could have done much about either. They were hapless deflections, that is all, scruffy influence on what was often a scruffy game. Not that Arsenal were complaining.
This win takes them to Wembley again, for the first domestic cup final after their last visit in May. Manchester City will be favourites on the day, of course, but so were Chelsea over two legs here. Arsenal were decent value for their win, though, even if Chelsea will rue the chances missed in the first game.
The winner came after 60 minutes, Arsenal having fought back from an early goal down. Alexandre Lacazette, quiet otherwise, held the ball up well on the right against Andreas Christensen, before attempting a cross which clipped the legs of Rudiger. Having already diverted the ball into his own net with his head, he could have done with a break. He didn’t get it. The rebound took the ball directly to Granit Xhaka, who prodded it past second-string goalkeeper Willy Caballero. Ah well. A Carabao Cup final appearance was hardly going to influence the long term future of Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. These things do matter to Arsenal though. They may be losing ground in the league, but he has turned them into an excellent cup side.
Alex Iwobi should have wrapped the game up with 14 minutes remaining, but hit his shot directly at Caballero with plenty of time and space. It made for a very nervous closing spell, particularly when Eden Hazard got on the ball.
The home fans were already full of misplaced outrage, mistakenly believing he should have been sent off for a second-half dive. Hazard had already been booked for a foul on Mesut Ozil and was through on goal, but lost his footing, and fell. Yet what would once have been a source of merriment was now a cause for anger. The locals wanted him booked for diving, and therefore sent off. It would have been a travesty. There was no appeal from Hazard, no attempt to make capital of the situation. He tripped. That was all. Footballers have to be free to fall over without being accused of simulation. Sometimes it truly is slippery out there.
The poor souls who paid good money for the first leg of this, must have followed the rematch with envy. There was more action, and goals, in the first 12 minutes than they enjoyed in 90 at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea had the ball in the net, disallowed on a tight – but right – offside call after five minutes, scored legitimately after seven, and saw their lead erased five minutes later. And those were not the only opportunities in a frenetic opening spell. It was more like the league game here, earlier this month, which finished 2-2 and could have been 5-5. At times it resembled one of those pick-up games over the park, players doing as they pleased with scant regard for shape; or one of those title fights that is more like a scrap. Only as the teams settled did the game become more structured and the defences begin to hold sway. But it was fun while it lasted.
The VAR was in play on Wednesday night – as the Carabao Cup continued its random quest for truth – and Michael Oliver used it at the first opportunity. Cesar Azpilicueta clipped the ball through, Pedro sprinted away from Arsenal’s back line and steered a header past David Ospina. It looked too good to be true; and was. Scott Ledger’s flag was up and the VAR rerun showed him to be correct. Pedro was off, but not by much. Arsenal could not afford to leave gaps in their ranks like that again. Being Arsenal, they failed to learn this rather obvious lesson.
So two minutes later, they paid. It was a lovely, fluent passing move, started by N’Golo Kante, who fed the ball into Pedro, his deft flick finding Eden Hazard exploiting a hole in the middle of Arsenal’s defence that the team bus could have driven through. Unlike Alvaro Morata, who missed three one-on-one chances at Stamford Bridge in the first leg, Hazard made no mistake, slipping the ball past Ospina with the minimum fuss.
Arsenal should have equalised within two minutes, and it was unfortunate that the one English player on the pitch was probably the reason they didn’t. Jack Wilshere has been in great form for Arsenal of late, but his touch when put through by Alex Iwobi was poor. Iwobi pinged it, yes, but the best teams often do, and Wilshere’s attempt at control diverted the ball into the path of goalkeeper Willy Cabellero, who saved at his feet. Caballero sustained a minor injury but carried on. It was good news for Chelsea with Thibaut Courtois already out – but Eduardo remained on standby.
It is fair to say Caballero’s knock had no influence on Arsenal’s equaliser, however. No goalkeeper could have kept the ball out from its zig-zag path to goal. A Hector Bellerin ball across the face of goal was put out from a corner and when it returned to the box, Nacho Monreal won a header. From there, the ball took on a life of its own. It hit Marcos Alonso on the head, rebounded off the head of Antonio Rudiger and defeated Caballero utterly. He might have reacted to the first ricochet, but the second left him stranded.
Chelsea then should have gone ahead again in the 20th minute, when a great dummy from Hazard left Willian in space. The Brazilian snatched at his shot, however, which he screwed wide. It was the last significant part he would play in the game, withdrawn soon after with what looked like hamstring trouble, and replaced by Ross Barkley, on his debut.
It was May last year when Barkley last played a competitive first-team kick, but he was immediately involved, clattered to the ground by Wilshere, which earned the Arsenal man a booking, before conceding a foul in a dangerous area, Xhaka’s attempt deflected over the bar. Just before half-time Mesut Ozil had a shot deflected wide by Azpilicueta – Arsenal ending in the ascendancy, even if trailing on away goals.