LONDON, United Kingdom, Jan 22 – Ten-man Arsenal twice came from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw at Chelsea despite a nightmare return to Stamford Bridge for David Luiz.
The Brazilian was sent-off after just 26 minutes for hauling down Tammy Abraham and Jorginho converted the resulting penalty.
However, Chelsea’s struggles at the Bridge continued and they offered another lifeline to those challenging for a top-four finish, with Gabriel Martinelli allowed to run almost the length of the field to equalise midway through the second half.
Cesar Azpilicueta had appeared to end Arsenal’s resistence six minutes from time, but Hector Bellerin levelled once more in a thrilling finale.
A point extends Chelsea’s lead over Manchester United in fifth to six points, but the Red Devils can cut that gap to three with victory over Burnley on Wednesday.
Arsenal remain in 10th, 10 points behind their hosts, and despite admitting before the match that his side had to win to maintain any hope of securing a return to the Champions League, Mikel Arteta will be proud of the spirit showed by the visitors.
Frank Lampard’s men have now won just four of their last 12 league games, including home defeats to West Ham, Bournemouth and Southampton, and they were again guilty of a lack of creativity at one end and defensive lapses at the other.
Chelsea started brightly and only a brave block from Shkodran Mustafi denied Mateo Kovacic as he fired goalwards after a fine team move instigated by Callum Hudson-Odoi and Azpilicueta.
Lampard spoke of his desire for Chelsea to be more clinical after losing 1-0 at Newcastle on Saturday with Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time top goalscorer Edison Cavani a target.
– Wasteful Chelsea –
Abraham’s place could be under threat should the Uruguayan arrive in west London and he should have done better when he headed straight at Bernd Leno with just the German goalkeeper to beat.
However, the England international had a big role to play when he pounced on a gift from Mustafi to race clear on goal and round Leno.
Luiz got back in time to make a challenge, but barged Abraham to the ground and in the opinion of the referee did not make an attempt to play the ball.
Jorginho produced a characteristically cool finish from the penalty spot and Chelsea should have been on course for a comfortable three points.
Leno made an important stop from Hudson-Odoi’s drive moments later, but the home side failed to make the extra man count and allowed Arsenal to grow in confidence.
The Gunners still had not had a single attempt on goal until Martinelli showed impressive pace and poise to level just after the hour mark.
From a Chelsea corner the Brazilian ran from the edge of his own box unopposed, thanks to N’Golo Kante slipping, before slotting home the 10th goal of an impressive debut season in England.
Alexandre Lacazette then had the ball in the Chelsea net for a second time, but was rightly flagged offside.
Chelsea were lacking the guile to unlock the 10 men in their search for a winner, but seemed to have found a way thanks to a quickly taken corner when Azpilicueta swept home Hudson-Odoi’s cross.
However, Arsenal were not to be denied as captain for the night Bellerin produced a magnificent finish on his weaker left foot from outside the area three minutes later to secure a 12th draw in 24 Premier League games for the Gunners.