Premier League – Drogba haunts Arsenal as Chelsea go top

Didier Drogba scored twice as Chelsea landed a crushing blow to Arsenal‘s title hopes with a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge that put the Blues back on top of the Premier League.

The Ivory Coast striker stood at the back post to rifle John Terry‘s near-post flick-on into the roof of the net after an eighth minute corner.

Midway through the first half Drogba exploited hesitant defending by the visitors and smashed a ferocious finish past Manuel Almunia to effectively end the tie.

The brace took Drogba’s personal haul against the Gunners to 12 in as many games as his side pulled two points clear of second-placed Manchester United and 10 ahead of Arsenal, whose championship bid has now taken a double-blow after the 3-1 home defeat to United.

It was a typical first half for both sides. Arsene Wenger’s side looked comfortable enough on the ball but lightweight up front, and a lack of concentration left them vulnerable to the set-plays and counter-attacks that Chelsea love to exploit.

The opener came after Terry ran diagonally towards the near post to flick Florent Malouda‘s delivery across goal, with Drogba on hand to complete one of his easier finishes.

Arsenal seemed keen to employ the higher final ball, odd given their huge height disadvantage: the front three of Andrei Arshavin, Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri all stand shorter than 5’10”.

They still threatened to level but Petr Cech forced Nasri wide and smothered his attempted centre after the Frenchman beat the offside trap.

A minute later Cech was forced into action again, saving well with his feet after Arshavin volleyed Cesc Fabregas‘s pass towards goal.

By 23 minutes, though, it was game over. Arshavin gave the ball away deep in the Chelsea half and Frank Lampard slide the ball to Drogba on the right of the Arsenal box.

He still had it all to do but was helped by Gael Clichy‘s poor attempted tackle, allowing Drogba to shift on to his weaker left foot and power the ball into the back of the net.

The Gunners continued to boss possession but, with no cutting edge and Chelsea comfortable soaking up the pressure, the hosts controlled the game to half-time.

There was little sign of any change to the pattern in the second half.

Arsenal continued to play good passing football but crumbled in the final third, while Chelsea sat back and looked for a third.

They came mighty close too.

Lampard back-heeled straight at Almunia after good play on both flanks by Drogba and Malouda, while Drogba smashed a free-kick off the bar from 25 yards.

For their part Arsenal forced good stops from Cech when first Fabregas’s free-kick headed for the bottom right and secondly when the Spaniard’s header across goal almost found Nicklas Bendtner.

But Chelsea were never really in danger and held on comfortably to effectively turn the Premier League into a two-horse title race with United.

Reda Maher / Eurosport