A silly tackle, simulation from Victor Moses and a lethargic – perhaps overjoyed from the Premier League success – performance cost Chelsea a double, following their 2-1 loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
Take nothing away from the Gunners, they gave their bit to just about deserve the victory as the curtains dropped on the 2016/17 season in England.
Alexis Sanchez was the only professional footballer in the run up to his opener in the first half.
The Chilean was struck in the hand with the ball just outside the Chelsea box, but played to the whistle, while the Blues’ defence threw a tantrum over the Referee’s decision to allow play continue as the ball rolled into the back of the net – minute 4.
Whether it was Aaron Ramsey’s offside position or Alexis’ handball, their protest was futile.
Alexis celebrated, then waited for another several moments – as long as it actually takes to consult a VAR – and though Anthony Taylor totally got it wrong eventually, the celebrations that followed involved every Arsenal player, the Manager and fans.
Generally, it was a poor final; only a few sparks; Per Mertesacker being one of them, but the controversial goal hung in the air – a foul smell – as the major talking point.
The first half ended.
The game resumed and the second half was slightly different as Chelsea got into gear and asked some questions of the Arsenal defence.
No response will come for a long while, but there were individual battles, poorly hit attempts, steady goalkeeping and then the senseless theatrics by Moses – The red card minute 68.
He would have been the first candidate for Substitution, if only Antonio Conte had the luck of peeking into the future.
Chelsea were reduced to 10-men but it seemed to spark a new life into them as Diego Costa would finish an archetypal goal poacher’s strike from inside the box in the 76th minute – took some deflection to.
But the response from the Gunners was almost instantaneous. Three minutes after the leveler Ramsey strolled in between three players to head home and give Arsenal the lead again.
Sure Diego Costa stayed on long enough to try and restore parity, but it was not to be – Minute 88 he was subbed off.
Arsenal were guilty of missing several, many chances to finish their uninspiring opponents off, but their profligacy would bear them no pain.
Note: If there were any stand out players in the 90 minutes of this FA Cup Final, Per Mertesacker will be one of them; the only one worth mentioning as a matter of subjective judgement.
And so, though they finished outside the top four – the first time in 20 years – Arsenal wrapped up the season with a silverware, Alex Iwobi won something and he can thank Moses later for playing some part in that.
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