Friday 20 October 2017

Winners Arsenal take it all against Chelsea in Community Shield at Wembley

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois missed a penalty in the Wembley shootout against Arsenal
Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois missed a penalty in the Wembley shootout against Arsenal

Arsenal won Sunday's Community Shield after Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Alvaro Morata missed penalties in a shootout at Wembley.

The season curtain-raiser between Premier League champions Chelsea and FA Cup winners Arsenal finished 1-1 after 90 minutes.

An English football first followed as the 'ABBA' penalty shootout was deployed and the Gunners prevailed 4-1 to extend their winning record at Wembley to nine straight games, including two in penalty shootouts.

The 'ABBA' system is based on the format used in tennis tie-breaks, with the team taking the first kick in each pair of kicks alternating.

Courtois took Chelsea's second kick, seeking to equalise, and blasted over before Morata, the substitute striker, fired wide.

That gave Arsenal the initiative. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored before Olivier Giroud netted the decisive strike.

Arsenal celebrated and Chelsea looked on, just as they had done in May when the Gunners beat them in the FA Cup final.

It had been an even contest.

Victor Moses' strike one minute into the second half was cancelled out by Sead Kolasinac's header eight minutes from time. Both benefited from defensive lapses.

The Gunners' equaliser came moments after Pedro was sent off for a tackle from behind on Mohamed Elneny and was no less than Arsenal deserved after Alexandre Lacazette hit the post in the first half.

It is seven years since the Community Shield winners last went on to win the Premier League.

Manchester United were the triumphant team then and now Jose Mourinho's side and Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are seeking to succeed Chelsea as English champions.

Tottenham, who will play home matches at Wembley, and Liverpool also begin the campaign with optimism.

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte rates Arsenal as contenders, too, while the Italian's appraisal of his own side may depend on further signings before the end of the month.

Arsenal denied Conte a league and cup double in his first season in charge as Arsene Wenger celebrated a seventh FA Cup win with a 2-1 victory here on May 27.

The Grenfell Tower fire happened less than three weeks later, killing at least 80 people.

Wembley was united in remembrance on Sunday, hoping to raise £1.25million for the victims of the tragedy.

Striker Lacazette was the only new signing in the starting line-ups, with focus on those absent as much as those playing.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez was present as a spectator, as was Chelsea's Eden Hazard.

Diego Costa, for three campaigns Arsenal's tormentor-in-chief in this fixture, remains in exile.

Conte's switch to a 3-4-3 formation during last September's Premier League loss at Arsenal prompted a 13-match winning run.

But here Chelsea's defence was stretched by the Gunners' pacey three-pronged attack.

Alex Iwobi's direct running twice forced Courtois to be alert, while Danny Welbeck headed at the goalkeeper, who was beaten by Lacazette only for the striker to see the ball rebound off the post.

Per Mertesacker had to go off after 30 minutes, struck by Gary Cahill's flailing arm in the Arsenal box. On came the second of Arsenal's summer signings, Kolasinac.

Chelsea's first attempt of note came on the counter-attack as Pedro - wearing a face mask following the facial injury sustained between the teams in last month's friendly in Beijing - stretched the Gunners. Petr Cech was equal to his shot.

Willian was adjudged to have dived in the Arsenal box after Hector Bellerin had mis-controlled. On another day it would have been a penalty. The Gunners were reprieved once again.

Iwobi attempted to run through Chelsea and shot at Courtois before Welbeck scooped the ball well over.

Chelsea took the lead within moments of the restart. Granit Xhaka sent Cesc Fabregas' corner looping into the air and Cahill met the ball on the edge of the area.

Cahill headed the ball into the box and Moses was lurking. He took one touch on his chest and then slipped the ball in.

He finished well before celebrating with a dive - a reference to his sending-off in the FA Cup final which will see him miss Saturday's Premier League opener with Burnley through suspension.

Elneny fired over soon afterwards as Cahill only half-cleared a Bellerin cross.

Morata, on for Michy Batshuayi, then met Willian's improvised cross, but all he could do was slice it off-target.

Pedro was sent off after catching Elneny and Arsenal scored from the resulting free-kick, Kolasinac converting a free header from Xhaka's pass.

Morata was offside when he headed Fabregas' late free-kick wide as the match went to penalties and Arsenal extended their winning record at Wembley.

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