Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea: Organized Blues defending effectively ends title race (video)

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Chelsea marched towards a likely Premier League title by earning a point at the Emirates thanks to solid, organized defending in the final third. Arsenal maintained possession and an attacking mindset through much of the second half but couldn’t find a breakthrough.

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Referee Michael Oliver was also a major talking point throughout the match with missed decisions that slighted both sides, contributing to the empty scoresheet. It appeared Oliver missed a pair of legitimate penalty shouts, failed to ensure injury protocols are followed, and refused to show a red card for a dangerous second-half play.

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Without a striker in the starting lineup, Oscar started as the man up front for Chelsea, and proved to be a presence. Chelsea had the first few chances, the best coming in the 16th minute when Oscar nearly latched onto a long ball before Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina pummeled the Brazilian. Michael Oliver did not call a foul, despite the heavy challenge, much to the ire of Jose Mourinho. Hector Bellerin was required to come back and make a goal-line clearance with his head, which he did.

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As the game ticked towards the half-hour mark, the visitors remained the more creative side. Chelsea looked to be hard done by Michael Oliver again when he booked Cesc Fabregas for diving despite replays showing late contact from Santi Cazorla inside the corner of the penalty area.

Arsenal slowly built themselves into the game past the half-hour mark, and they then felt aggrieved by Michael Oliver as a shot from Santi Cazorla struck the outstretched arm of a lunging Gary Cahill, but again the referee waved play on. David Ospina then made a big save on Ramires minutes later, robbing him of a chance clear on goal. Despite all the penalty shouts, it remained goalless at the halftime break.

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Oscar was substituted off at halftime and sent to the hospital after his clash with Ospina, and Didier Drogba came on. Arsenal held much of the possession following the break, but had little to offer in front of goal. The Blues caught a break when a high boot from Willian struck Laurent Koscielny in the face, but Michael Oliver only chose yellow for the Brazilian despite a relatively clear red card situation.

As the game progressed, neither side felt the need to take risks to earn all three points, and only one tactical substitution was made as the clock ticked past 83 minutes. There was little counter-attacking, and while the attacks proved sharp at times, the defending was sharper.

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Arsene Wenger finally brought on the pacey Theo Walcott with six minutes to go, but it had little effect in breaking down Chelsea’s astute organization. The biggest chance of the half came in the first minute of stoppage time, but the Gunners couldn’t capitalize on a ball delivered across the zone dangerously. The home side predictably poured men forward in the final minutes, but there would be no winner.

The draw grew Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table to 10 points with a game in hand, all but confirming their title push and ending any kind of a race. Arsenal draw level with Manchester City on points, but remain in third place on goal differential. Jose Mourinho also remains unbeaten against Arsene Wenger, with seven wins and six draws.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin (Welbeck 76′); Sanchez, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil; Giroud (Walcott 84′).

Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas (Zouma 90′), Ramires, Oscar (Drogba 46′), Willian (Cuadrado 90′), Hazard.