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English Premiership

Arsenal stalemate delays Chelsea coronation

FABREGAS-SANCHEZLONDON, April 26- Chelsea must wait at least another week for the Premier League title after drawing 0-0 with Arsenal in a niggly, physical encounter at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Chelsea had three penalty appeals turned down in the first half, and Arsenal one, and while the home side procured clearer chances after half-time, the result favoured the visitors, who kept their 10-point lead intact.

Victory would have enabled Jose Mourinho’s team to secure the league by winning at Leicester City on Wednesday, but they can now claim the title in front of their own fans by beating Leicester and then defeating Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge next Sunday.

The draw ended a run of nine Arsenal wins in all competitions, but while Arsene Wenger’s record of matches without victory over Mourinho now stands at 13, his side remain well placed in the race for the Champions League.

They remain third, below Manchester City on goal difference and two points above Manchester United, but have games in hand on both.

With Diego Costa and Loic Remy injured and Didier Drogba not fully fit, Chelsea manager Mourinho sprang a surprise by fielding a starting XI that contained no recognised strikers.

Oscar was the nominal number nine and he was involved in the day’s first two penalty incidents, firstly going to ground when Hector Bellerin ran across the back of his legs.

There was fleeting contact between the players, but it appeared accidental and referee Michael Oliver waved play on.

Back at the club where he had previously spent eight years, Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas was booed at every turn.

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The second penalty appeal stemmed from his pass from deep that sent Oscar sprinting into the Arsenal box.

The Brazil international lofted the ball over the onrushing David Ospina, who poleaxed him, but Bellerin headed his shot off the line and Oliver did not deem the Arsenal goalkeeper’s challenge a foul.

In the 24th minute, it was Fabregas turning a plaintive face to the referee after he had tumbled over Santi Cazorla’s outstretched leg.

– Oscar goes off –

But Oliver again was unmoved and to the delight of the home fans, booked the Spaniard for diving.

On the touchline, Mourinho’s scowl tightened, but 10 minutes later it was Wenger’s turn to lament the officials’ clemency.

After striding onto Bellerin’s volleyed cross, Cazorla saw a shot strike the raised arm of Gary Cahill, but again Oliver let it go.

Moments later Chelsea created the first real chance, with Willian steering a pass into the path of his countryman Ramires, but the Chelsea number seven’s prodded shot was comfortably saved by Ospina.

Mesut Ozil took aim at the other end after a sharp passing sequence, but put his shot straight at Thibaut Courtois.

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Oscar, apparently feeling the effects of his collision with Ospina, left the fray at half-time, with Drogba coming on.

The first half had at times been frantic, but Chelsea looked to draw the sting from the game in the second, inviting Arsenal to attack them and looking to break forward on the counter-attack.

After Drogba had put a shot straight at Ospina, there was another wince-inducing moment when Willian almost kicked Laurent Koscielny in the head with a high boot.

The Brazilian escaped with a booking, but Chelsea were almost punished from the ensuing free-kick.

Courtois could only pat the ball into the path of Per Mertesacker, but the big German centre-back skewed his shot wide, and when Koscielny teed up Cazorla moments later, the outcome was the same.

Wenger gambled by sending on forward Danny Welbeck for midfielder Francis Coquelin, but still Chelsea refused to buckle, prompting chants of ‘Boring, boring Chelsea!’ from the frustrated home fans.

There was one last chance for Arsenal, Nacho Monreal threading a cross into the box from the left, but neither Ozil nor Welbeck could apply a finishing touch.

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