Two important Barclays Premier League football matches took place on the evening of Wednesday 20th April 2011, as the teams placed 2nd and 3rd – Arsenal and Chelsea – both faced difficult matches. Arsenal had to travel the short distance to North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur for a local derby, while Chelsea faced a home match with relegation candidates, Birmingham.
Chelsea 3-1 Birmingham
Chelsea climbed to second place in the table with a solid 3-1 win over Birmingham at Stamford Bridge.
Florent Malouda got Chelsea off to the best of starts when he hammered home following Didier Drogba’s flick-on in the third minute of play. Kalou doubled Chelsea’s lead with the goal of the game on 26 minutes, when he completed a mazey run to the edge of the area with a curling right-footed shot that went in off the unsighted goalkeeper Ben Foster’s post.
After the sides came in with the ome side leading 2-0, Malouda wrapped up the match with his second of the game coming from a powerful header from an inch-perfect cross from debutant Ryan Bertrand, who had come on to replace Ashley Cole at the left-back position, in the 62nd minute. He will not forget his first appearance for the Blues.
Birmingham did get a late consolation, however, when David Luiz brought down Matt Derbyshire just inside the area. Larsson put the penalty away on 76 minutes, but the goal would prove to be too little too late for Birmingham who remain five points ahead of the relegation places, and look good enough to survive in this league for another season.
Tottenham 3-3 Arsenal
Arsenal, as they have a couple of times this season, let slip a commanding position, as they allowed their local rivals, Spurs, to come back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 at White Hart Lane. At the end of the match it was Arsenal, not Spurs, who looked like the side happiest to come out with a point, too, after Tottenham found only Szczesny, in the Arsenal goal, up to the task of stopping their rambunctious forays into opposition territory.
But this highly entertaining example of flowing, attacking football was perhaps best shared, as Arsenal had been brilliant at times themselves going forwards, not least when Theo Walcott opened the scoring after just 5 minutes: the England international running onto a well-weighted Fabregas through ball before rolling cooly into the corner of the net. 1-0 Arsenal.
Tottenham hit straight back, however, with Rafael Van der Vaart hitting a peach of a shot in-off-the-post from the edge of the area to make it 1-1.
Nasri then put the visiting Gunners in front on 12 minutes when his deflected shot beat Gomes in the Tottenham goal, before Robin van Persie made it 3-1 on 40 minutes with a good finish from a rebound – after Gomes has made a world-class stop from the same players on-target header.
Tom Huddlestone gave the home side vital hope just before half -time, though, when he hit a scintillating shot from outside the area, with little back-lift, that found its way between legs, and curling into the Arsenal net on 44 minutes, making the half time scoreline 3-2 to Arsenal. Game on.
Tottenham emerged with real purpose in the second half, and had a number of good opportunities to level the match, before a decisive moment saw Robin van Persie put the ball in the net, courtesy of a Gomes howler, only to see the off-side flag – incorrectly, replays would later prove – raised.
The ‘keeper at the other end, Szczesny, was playing a blinder, stopping Van der Vaart from close range with his feet, and tipping a crouch header over the bar, in among a long list of goalkeeping highlights, but it was he who was to make a minor misjudgement which led to the equaliser as he came out to get the ball from Aaron Lennon, who had burst into the box. Any other player, and Szczesny would have got finger tips to the ball, but Lennon’s speed meant that he got there a mere moment before: the goalkeeper instead made contact with the player, slightly afterward, for a clear penalty, which Van der Vaart gleefully powered into the bottom right corner on 70 minutes.
This signalled the start of 20 minutes of home pressure, but Arsenal clung onto a point which did neither side many favours in their respective efforts to catch the teams from Manchester each of them is looking to surpass for their own goals.
Regardless of the need for more points each side clearly felt, this was a highly entertaining match, which neither side deserved to lose. A truly absorbing encounter which shows why both Arsenal and Spurs are fighting for seats at the highest of tables.
Barclays Premier League 2010/2011 Results – Wednesday 20th April 2011
- Chelsea 3-1 Birmingham
- Tottenham 3-3 Arsenal