EPL 2005: Day 21 (Charlton 1 – Arsenal 3)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
January 2nd, 2005 • 3:30 am

There were really reasons to be hopeful on this day as an Arsenal fan. Earlier in the afternoon, Chelsea faced a difficult trip to Anfield, which might see them drop points for the first time since the draw at Highbury, and give the Gunners additional motivation to try and catch up with them.

Unfortunately, Chelsea were very lucky and ended up grabbing all three points. Liverpool suffered from their current shortage of strikers, yet more injuries, poor refereeing and pure deflected luck for Chelsea on the Joe Cole goal.

The only good news is that Chelsea were utterly dominated throughout the game. They did get a few breaks, but were unable to convert them, and on the whole were not able to build much. Liverpool controlled the entire first half and a good part of the second half, but were not able to apply the finishing touch that would have given them the edge and challenged Chelsea to even try to salvage a point.

Referee Mike Riley denied Liverpool a rather obvious penalty award for a blatant handball by Tiago in the Chelsea penalty box. Frank Lampard went in with a reckless challenge that only cost him a yellow card and ended up breaking Xabi Alonso’s ankle. And then Joe Cole came on as a late substitute, saw a ball drop to him on the edge of the Liverpool box, kicked the ball in the general direction of the goal (in fact, straight at Dudek), but it was deflected to the other side of the cage and Chelsea were in front with 6 minutes to go.

Pure luck. And Chelsea needed it. They got it alright. Maybe it will be enough to help them win the championship. But Liverpool have nothing to be ashamed of, and the Gunners can take comfort in the fact that there are signs that that Chelsea team might not always have all the answers. After all, they can’t control luck. Maybe there is still time for it to turn against them for a bit and revive Arsenal’s hopes of retaining their crown.

The Gunners were able to keep pace with the league leaders by beating Charlton 3-1 rather convincingly at the Valley. They did get a bit of a scare when El Karkouri levelled the score with an impressive free kick shortly before half time. For once, however, it was a goal on a set piece for which Arsenal’s defence was not really at fault; it was just a great strike that went in through the legs of the Arsenal defenders that had rushed forward to try and block it, and there was little that Almunia could do about it. The only way to stop it would have been to have a player standing on the goal line, which obviously you don’t normally expect will be necessary for such a long-range effort.

Two of the three goals scored by Arsenal were helped by a rather poor Charlton defence, but there was no denying the class of the Gunners on the second Ljunberg goal: a tremendous build-up, followed by a wonderful finish. It was a typical Arsenal goal, but what was particularly impressive is that it was created not by the usual suspects (Pires, Vieira, Bergkamp, Henry), but by Fabregas and van Persie. The back flick by Fabregas was just terrific.

The Gunners still have work to do before they can claim to have found their championship form again, however. They were left exposed a few times by decent Charlton moves, and would have been punished by a team with better finishers. But on the whole it was a convincing win nonetheless, even though it only enabled them to keep up with the leaders and maintain their lead over Manchester United, who didn’t have much trouble defeating Middlesborough themselves. Everton suffered their second defeat in a row and are now in danger of quickly dropping out of sight of the top three usual suspects.

Next up for Arsenal is a home fixture against Manchester City on Tuesday, which they will be expected to win. Chelsea will host Middlesborough and, unless Steve McLaren can conjure up something big between now and then, the result will be a win for the leaders as well. The one fixture to look forward to now is Chelsea’s trip to White Hart Lane on January 15. Tottenham is on a roll and maybe something can happen then.

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.