Gunners reignite top-four push with thrilling win over Chelsea

Eddie Nketiah's first Premier League double and goals from Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka seal 4-2 victory at Stamford Bridge

Thursday, 21st April — By Zakaria Taibi

Arsenal

Premier League

CHELSEA 2 (Werner 17, Azpilicueta 32)
ARSENAL 4 (Nketiah 13, 57, Smith Rowe 27, Saka 90+2 pen)

ARSENAL kept their Champions League qualification hopes alive with an impressive 4-2 victory over Chelsea tonight (Wednesday).

After three successive defeats it took a showcase of sloppy defending at Stamford Bridge to get the Gunners push for a top-four finish back on track.

And the star of the show was none other than Chelsea reject Eddie Nketiah, who returned to haunt the club that released him as a teenager by scoring his first Premier League double.

“It was a big result, after losing three back-to-back we wanted to bounce back,” said Nketiah. “Everybody fought hard, we knew it was a derby so we gave it 100 per cent. To come here and score four goals isn’t easy, so credit to all the boys.”

Reflecting on his own personal satisfaction the 22-year-old striker, who is out of contract at the Emirates in the summer, added: “It makes it that bit more special. I was here up until Under-14s and got let go – you always have that chip on your shoulder to come and prove yourself. It’s good that I got two goals, but it’s not about me, it’s about the team.”

Emile Smith Rowe also found the back of the net with a clinical finish, before Bukayo Saka sealed Arsenal’s victory from the spot in stoppage time.

The result leaves the Gunners fifth in the table, with only goal-difference now separating them from north London rivals Tottenham, who are fourth.

After seeing his side twice surrender a lead before finally grinding out three big points in west London, Mikel Arteta revealed the challenge he set his young squad.

“I said to the players if you want to be playing Champions League football you have to come to the biggest stages and beat top teams and tonight we’ve done that. I’m really proud of them,” said the Arsenal boss.

“But I’m more proud of how they reacted after every defeat we’ve had over the last few weeks. The players showed real maturity, composure and quality to match a top top side with a very good manager.”

Arsenal got off to a flying start in the first half and their pressing paid off when Andreas Christensen was forced into giving the ball away. His poor back pass allowed Nketiah to pounce – the young forward racing clear before emphatically slotting the ball past Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal.

Timo Werner quickly equalised for the Blues with a shot from outside the box that deflected off Granit Xhaka and squeezed past Aaron Ramsdale. The Arsenal goalkeeper should have done better, as should have Xhaka who turned his back on the ball.

Xhaka soon redeemed himself, however. The midfielder calmly dribbled his way out of the Arsenal penalty area, skipping past a string of Chelsea players to ignite a sweeping counter-attack.

Some quick passing from Saka and Martin Odegaard saw the ball eventually land at the feet of Smith Rowe, who guided a perfect first-time effort into the corner.

This time the lead lasted less than five minutes as the Gunners were once again punished for failing to put in a decisive tackle. Mason Mount was allowed to cross into the near post where Cesar Azpilicueta arrived with perfect timing to toe-poke home.

The second half was just as chaotic. Nketiah was once again rewarded for his hard work as he took advantage of a series of defensive errors to put Arsenal back in front after 57 minutes.

Saka was then able to put the game to bed in extra-time from the penalty spot after being brought down in the box by Azpilicueta.

Arteta saved a special mention for Nketiah, saying: “If there’s one player I’ve been unfair with, it’s him. If Eddie hasn’t played more it’s my fault because as a manger I missed something or hadn’t had the courage to play him more. And today he has shown me again how wrong I was.”

Arsenal host Manchester United at the Emirates this Saturday in another must-win game in their search for a top-four finish.

Chelsea: Mendy, James, Christensen (Silva, 45), Sarr, Azpilicueta, Alonso (Ziyech, 81), Loftus-Cheek, Kante, Mount, Lukaku (Havertz, 60), Werner
Substitutes not used: Arrizabalaga, Jorginho, Pulisic, Chalobah, Saul, Barkley

Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Holding, Gabriel, Tavares, Elneny, Xhaka, Saka (Lacazette 90+5), Odegaard, Smith Rowe (Soares, 75), Nketiah (Martinelli, 70)
Substitutes not used: Leno, Sambi Lokonga, Pepe, Azeez, Swanson, Hutchinson

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