LONDON (AFP) – Chelsea dealt a crushing blow to Arsenal’s Premier League title hopes with a 6-0 victory on Saturday after one of the beaten team’s players had been mistakenly sent off.
Chelsea were in no mood to allow Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to celebrate his 1,000th game in charge and raced into a two-goal lead inside the opening seven minutes, courtesy of Samuel Eto’o and Andre Schurrle.
Despite the heavy defeat, the main talking point of this eagerly-anticipated contest came in the 17th minute when Arsenal left back Kieran Gibbs was incorrectly shown a red card by referee Andre Marriner.
The official pointed to the spot when a right-foot shot from Eden Hazard was tipped around the post by the left hand of Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Yet Marriner ordered Gibbs to leave the field, despite television replays showing Oxlade-Chamberlain apparently telling the official, “Ref, it was me!”
Gibbs continued to protest his innocence as he walked off, before Hazard slotted home the spot-kick.
Oscar added a brace of goals either side of half-time, before substitute Mohamed Salah completed Chelsea’s most emphatic win over Arsenal with his team’s sixth.
At half-time, fourth official Anthony Taylor confirmed to television broadcasters that Gibbs’s red card had been a case of mistaken identity.
But regardless of the referee’s mistake, this was another shambolic defensive performance by Wenger’s Arsenal, who had previously conceded six goals at Manchester City and five at Liverpool this season.
- Slide-rule pass -
Arsenal have now let in 34 league goals this term, with half coming in just 270 minutes of football.
Yet it all could have been very different for the visitors had Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud scored in the fourth minute.
Tomas Rosicky fed the Frenchman with a slide-rule pass, but Petr Cech produced a neat save down to his left.
That started Arsenal’s problems as the ball did not go out of play and Chelsea launched a lightning-quick counter-attack.
Schurrle exchanged passed with Hazard before threading a ball through to Eto’o on the right-hand side of the penalty box.
The striker cut inside Oxlade-Chamberlain and expertly finished into the far corner beyond Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Worse was to follow for Wenger two minutes later as Schurrle doubled Chelsea’s advantage when he received Nemanja Matic’s pass and fired a shot through Laurent Koscielny’s legs that gave Szczesny no chance.
Chelsea then lost Eto’o to an apparent hamstring injury, with Fernando Torres coming on, but by the time of Marriner’s blunder, the game already seemed over.
To Chelsea’s credit, they went on to show a ruthless streak by ramming home their dominance to put the pressure on title rivals Liverpool and City.
Oscar bagged his first goal four minutes before the break when the Brazilian shot into the roof of the net following Torres’s cross from the right.
He completed his brace in the 66th minute with a shot from outside the box that appeared to catch Szczesny by surprise, before Salah ran through fives minutes later to score his first Chelsea goal.