Football

Published: Tuesday December 24, 2013 MYT 7:02:01 AM
Updated: Tuesday December 24, 2013 MYT 7:02:01 AM

Arsenal and Chelsea serve up bleak midwinter draw

LONDON (Reuters) - A fixture billed as a pre-Christmas cracker was more In the Bleak Midwinter than Jingle Bell Rock as Arsenal's hopes of regaining top spot in the Premier League fizzled out in a turgid 0-0 draw with Chelsea.

Nine days after losing 6-3 at Manchester City and having seen their title rivals steal a march on them at the weekend, Arsenal found themselves stifled by a defensive Chelsea side and hardly managed a shot on target.

The home fans chanted "Boring Boring Chelsea" on a rain-lashed night in north London but the visitors actually had the better of what few chances there were and will take greater satisfaction from a spirit-dampening encounter.

Both sides moved up a place in the table, Arsenal to second with 36 points, behind leaders Liverpool on goal difference, while Chelsea returned to the top four with 34 points, above Everton also on goal difference.

It could have been even better for Chelsea had Frank Lampard's first-half volley hit the back of the net rather than the underside of the crossbar.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who has never lost to Arsene Wenger in 10 meetings after Monday's draw, said the sides had effectively cancelled each other out in a soggy game of chess.

"It was a tactical match. A match that Arsenal wants to win but doesn't want to lose and Chelsea wants to win but doesn't want to lose," Mourinho told Sky Sports.

"We had the biggest chance of the game, I'm glad we have goalline technology so nobody could complain when Frank Lampard hit the crossbar.

"The (Chelsea) goalkeeper (Petr Cech) was not in the game, we controlled the game defensively. We let (Arsenal midfielder) Mikel Arteta play the ball from side to side, we were completely under control."

CAST LIST

Fans who braved a howling gale and driving rain might have wished they had stayed at home to wrap up the presents.

Despite a cast list featuring the likes of internationals Mesut Ozil, Eden Hazard and Theo Walcott, it was a night for the defenders' union to re-establish their authority after a flurry of high-scoring Premier League matches in recent weeks.

With Liverpool, Manchester City, Everton and improving champions Manchester United ratcheting up the pressure on long-timer league leaders Arsenal, it was a chance for Arsene Wenger's side to shrug off recent disappointments and reassert themselves before a busy holiday programme.

Chelsea were in Scrooge-like mood though.

The visitors, with the creative talents of Brazilian Oscar and Spaniard Juan Mata left to get a soaking on the bench, worked tirelessly to stifle Arsenal's attacking verve.

Chelsea had the better chances in a tepid first half, the best of which saw Lampard crash a volley against the bar after being beautifully teed up by Eden Hazard's chipped pass.

Arsenal had a penalty shout when Willian rapped Walcott's ankle but there was precious little else to animate the home fans who also screamed for action when John Obi Mikel clattered into Arteta with what looked like a dangerous tackle.

Chelsea's Fernando Torres ploughed a lone furrow up front, forcing Wojciech Szczesny into a comfortable save, while Arsenal counterpart Olivier Giroud was also scavenging for scraps.

If anything the second half was even more tedious than the first as the match descended into an ugly, tetchy midfield battle that briefly boiled over when Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic caught Ozil in the face with his studs.

It took Arsenal nearly 80 minutes to engineer their best chance of the game but Frenchman Giroud sliced a left-foot shot horribly wide from inside the penalty area, the cue for many fans to head for the exits on a cold and disappointing night.

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