Monday, August 08, 2005
Didier Drogba responded to Chelsea's summer-long courtship of an array of leading European forwards by emerging as his side's Community Shield match-winner with a double strike. And so Chelsea began the new season just as ominously as they ended the last, with an edge over their nearest rivals, whom they face again in the Premiership in just two weeks' time.
By then, Arsenal must find an answer to their lack of physical stature due to the sale of Patrick Vieira and the continued absence of Sol Campbell through injury. Otherwise Chelsea could take a rather more significant step towards retaining their trophy than this clear signal of their intentions, which again showcased the strength of their squad.
For while the likes of Andrei Shevchenko, David Trezeguet and Samuel Eto'o may have eluded them, there was still £75million worth of talent on the bench - even before the potential arrival of their next target, Michael Essien. Drogba, meanwhile, provided another retort to those who have branded the club's £24million record signing as a waste of money, adding two more goals to his tally of 16 last season.
More worryingly for Arsenal, Philippe Senderos was clearly at fault for the Chelsea striker's eighth-minute strike and was again held off rather too easily when Drogba made it 2-0 just 13 minutes after the restart. Indeed, although Arsenal did pull a goal back through Cesc Fabregas with 25 minutes left, they are now relying rather too heavily on either Gilberto Silva or Campbell to strengthen their spine.
The Gunners were still spiky, especially when Lauren appeared to clip Drogba after the whistle had gone and Jens Lehmann accused the striker of feigning injury, but they were, in truth, never quite competitive enough. Ashley Cole was certainly relentless in his tackling as if to prove his loyalty after his talks with Chelsea, leaving Arjen Robben sprawling after one challenge and fortunate not to be booked for another foul on Drogba.
However, ironically enough, it was Asier del Horno - the Spanish international whom Chelsea signed instead of Cole - who set up their opener, with Wenger given further cause for concern about his defence. Senderos may have been a rock-like figure in the second-half of last season when he replaced Campbell in central defence.
However, he was not only left standing as Drogba strode onto del Horno's through-ball but also failed to get in a real challenge before the striker clipped his shot past Lehmann. Del Horno fitted comfortably into Chelsea's excellent defence, while Arsenal looked rather more vulnerable, even if Fabregas battled away and was booked along with Claude Makelele as they squared up to each other.
With Thierry Henry closely marked, it was left to Kolo Toure to not only win back possession but also stride onto a mishit pass by his new captain to force Cech into a diving save just before the break. Otherwise, Arsenal were rather short of inspiration and they made three changes at the break, with Alexander Hleb introduced along with Gilberto Silva and Robin van Persie, who are both still short of match-sharpness.
Hleb's first touches were certainly encouraging, but when Drogba charged onto a long ball forward, the match was effectively put beyond Arsenal's reach. The 27-year-old Chelsea striker, who initially held off Senderos' attempted challenge, may have been pushed wide by Lehmann but he swiftly recovered his footing to swivel and scoop his shot into the unguarded net.
That was the cue for Crespo, who was on loan at AC Milan last season, to replace him, but Drogba's job was done. Or so it seemed, at least until Fabregas pulled a goal back with 25 minutes left when he stabbed the ball home after the Chelsea defence had failed to clear Ljungberg's deflected cross.
Despite an array of substitutions, Arsenal actually started to play some neat one-touch football in the closing stages, with van Persie shooting wide at full stretch after Hleb had won the ball off del Horno. However, while Cech saved from Henry and Lampard tested out Lehmann, it was left to Toure to produce a last-ditch interception to deny Crespo after Fabregas had conceded possession to Joe Cole.
Having drawn twice with Arsenal last season, this time Chelsea emerged victorious. Indeed, it was a case of new season, same old story as Mourinho added one more trophy to his growing haul of Stamford Bridge silverware.
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