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Chelsea holds on to beat Arsenal 2-1

 Chelsea's Juan Mata reacts to his goal against Arsenal during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge, London, Sunday, Jan. 20, ...

Britain Soccer Premier League

Chelsea's Juan Mata reacts to his goal against Arsenal during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge, London, Sunday, Jan. 20, ...

Chelsea held off a stirring second-half fightback by London rival Arsenal to claim a 2-1 win on Sunday, tightening its grip on third place in the Premier League.
Juan Mata's excellent finish and a penalty from Frank Lampard gave the European champions a two-goal lead after only 16 minutes, with Arsenal feeble and outclassed in a one-sided first half.
The visitors showed huge improvement in the second half and Theo Walcott's 58th-minute goal offered them hope of at least a draw under gentle but regular snowfall at Stamford Bridge.
However, aided by some desperate defending, Chelsea hung on for only its third win in eight home matches under interim manager Rafa Benitez and remains favorite to take the final automatic Champions League qualification spot.
Arsenal stayed sixth, 11 points behind Chelsea and with a game in hand, but manager Arsene Wenger will be at loss to explain his team's first-half display, one of its most timid 45 minutes of the season.
Lacking leaders, defensively weak and failing to show the same work rate and hunger as its opponent, Arsenal was picked off time and again by Chelsea's effervescent midfield led by Mata. It should have been worse than 2-0 at halftime and Wenger had a face like thunder throughout the half.
Mata's goal came after Ramires escaped punishment for a foul on Francis Coquelin in the center circle. While Arsenal's players protested, Cesar Azpilicueta lofted a ball over the visiting defense to Mata, who controlled expertly and fired a shot high into the net with Bacary Sagna trailing in his wake.
Moments before the goal, Olivier Giroud screwed a shot wide when clean through and Santi Cazorla had a shot saved by goalkeeper Petr Cech in the ninth minute. Otherwise, it was all Chelsea.
Lampard made it 2-0 when Ramires was sent tumbling by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who as last man was fortunate to only receive a yellow card. It was the midfielder's 195th goal for the club _ seven behind Bobby Tambling's all-time record _ and sparked chants of "Sign him up" by Chelsea fans frustrated at the Chelsea's hierarchy's apparent decision to let his contract run down this summer.
Ramires and the subdued Fernando Torres, recalled in place of Demba Ba, skied shots over as Chelsea toyed with Arsenal before the interval.
The second half was very different.
Having squandered a great chance soon after the restart, Walcott _ recently signed up for a further 3 1/2 years _ made it 11 goals in his last 15 appearances by running onto Cazorla's perfectly weighted through ball and sidefooting a lofted finish past Cech.
Suddenly it was Wenger's team first to every ball as the home crowd became nervous. The struggling Torres was hauled off for Ba, who gave Arsenal's defense a different kind of problem to deal with and on one counterattack, Szczesny saved well from the Senegal striker.
Arsenal finished powerfully, though, and after Gary Cahill made a superb last-ditch clearance, Giroud headed over from a set piece. The final whistle was met with sheer relief by Chelsea fans.

Updated : 2021-05-19 05:15 GMT+08:00