By Ryan Moran
- Arsene Wenger’s first win over Jose Mourinho in 14 attempts.
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opens scoring with weak foot drive.
- Petr Cech keeps clean sheet against old club.
WEMBLEY STADIUM, LONDON – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal was the decider in a closely fought contest where Arsenal were 1-0 victors.
Like manager like players came to mind in watching Chelsea in the first half of The FA Community Shield. A relaxed Jose Mourinho in the pre-match interviews was reminiscent to the way his Chelsea side started proceedings at Wembley, kick-off was taken and the ball was played back into the path of Nemanja Matic who was instantly dispossessed by Theo Walcott and a flurry of red shirts.
The Portuguese manager, who described the match as being “more important than a summer tournament but nothing more than a shield” could not have summed up how Chelsea seemed to approach the start of the game. Matic’s mistake led to a nervy 30 seconds for last season’s Premier League champions who managed to get the ball clear. The Blues were slower out of the block than their London rivals; however when Cesc Fabregas managed to make contact with the ball ahead of Per Mertesacker in the box before colliding with the German defender, Chelsea’s supporters roared for a penalty which would have been harsh for Anthony Taylor to award.
After an energetic first 10 minutes for the Gunners, Chelsea needed to get a hold of the game and when Loic Remy chased a ball wide, only to be deflected for a corner which resulted in an Arsenal free kick for a foul on Nacho Monreal by Gary Cahill. The Stamford Bridge outfit still failed to grasp this game with Arsenal having the better chances and being more productive in possession. This was shown when Branislav Ivanovic studded the back of Santi Cazorla trying to intercept a one touch passing move by the Reds. This free kick on the left wing taken by Mesut Ozil found the head of Walcott, glancing the ball into the hands of Thibaut Courtois.
24 minutes in and the game got exactly what it needed- a goal. Walcott received the ball in space and played the ball wide to Oxlade-Chamberlain who cut inside of Cesar Azpilicueta too easily and drove the ball with his weaker foot into the top left corner. The England international’s goal infused life into the game and kick started a better period of play from Mourinho’s men. Scrappy play and Arsenal’s defensive wall blocking a series of half-hearted strikes saw the ball drop into Ramires’ path to swivel and curl a shot past Petr Cech’s far post. Chelsea again mounted another attack on Arsenal’s goal with Remy once again receiving the ball wide, propping the ball up to the back post for Ramires, the Brazilian international could not convert, heading over when it seemed easier to score. The French international only contributing from wide found himself offside too many times in what was a poor showing upfront.
Arsenal once again made another attempt to build on their 1-0 lead with a corner, headed on by Azpilicueta landing at the feet of Mertesacker only for the ball to be cleared well out of danger by John Terry. This danger only came back when Oxlade-Chamberlain crossed towards Monreal, who headed over under pressure from Chelsea’s Serbian full back who ended up colliding into Cahill and not the post luckily. One last chance fell to Chelsea after a free kick by Fabregas just over Ivanovic, easily picked up by Cech.
After a poor first half, Chelsea’s French striker paid the price, being replaced by new signing Rademal Falcao with Mourinho hoping this will turn the game in his side’s favour. Chelsea started the better of the two sides, the Colombian international contributing heavily in the opening few minutes. The Premier League champions weren’t going to go down without a fight, Oscar coming on for Ramires. These changes had a profound effect as the Blues found themselves in the Arsenal box with a Fabregas through ball to the PFA Player of the Year who surprisingly sent the ball high over the goal.
The North London side try to change the attack of the game by changing their striker from Walcott to Olivier Giroud, this however was not a turning point as the West London side kept the pressure on the Arsenal goal with Oscar curling over the wall from a free kick only to find the big gloves of the ex-Chelsea goalkeeper. The blues went for three at the back bringing Kurt Zouma on for Azpilicueta piling more pressure on Arsenal only for corner after corner to be defended by the club from the Emirates Stadium with Laurent Koscielny deflecting Fabregas’ effort for another corner.
The goal scorer had a chance to kill the game with a second goal, only for his shot to be deflected and thankfully finding the midriff of the Chelsea keeper. The ex-Southampton player then being substituted for a more defensive minded end to the game being replaced by Mikel Arteta. This defensive change was needed as Mourinho’s outfit found themselves wide in the opposition half with Ivanovic’s low cross not finding anyone and the cross back in not finding Oscar or Falcao. Victor Moses and Kieran Gibbs coming on for Terry and Ozil respectively showed more defensive thinking from Arsenal and more attacking presence from Chelsea. As the game went on both teams started to tire, Ivanovic playing back to his Belgian goal keeper who miscontrolled resulting in an Arsenal corner, nothing arose from this mistake however. Santi Cazorla found himself with an opportunity to seal the Community Shield finding the big presence of Thibaut Courtois and Aaron Ramsey’s deflected rebound shot off of Chelsea’s Serb midfielder going wide.
Matic found himself taking on four Arsenal players with the fourth, Gibbs, taking him down. Frustrations getting the better of the players and the referee needing to take control. The free kick from Fabregas finding Chelsea’s right back who headed wide. This summed up the Champion’s day with another scramble in the FA Cup winner’s box, header after header only for nothing to materialize. Salt in the wounds nearly occurred when a last minute burst from Giroud found Arsenal’s left back one-on-one with Courtois only to hit the Chelsea keeper.
“We have suffered physically today and the pitch was not great. But overall it’s good because in pre-season we have been solid defensively. Pre-season has gone quite well,” said Wenger on the result speaking to BT Sport.
Mourinho said in hos post-match interview with BT Sport: “We were the best team, more initiative, controlled the game and the energy and intensity to turn the result in our favour is hard when we lack quality at the beginning of the season.”
“He is history, I shouldn’t have to talk about history, he’s not my player,” he added, regarding Cech.
“Today was a big game for us and we wanted to lay down a marker for our manager and our fans. I want to contribute more goals this season, it’s a target I’ve set for myself, and of course I’m happy to have got the goal today,” said winning goal-scorer Alex Oxlade Chamberlain speaking to BBC Radio 5 live.
The Barclays Premier League starts on 8 August.