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Chelsea hold off Arsenal

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LONDON — Chelsea held off London rivals Arsenal at Stamford Bridge to claim their first home win of 2013 at the fourth attempt after a 2-1 win.

Report by BBC Sport

Juan Mata drove in a shot to put the Blues in front, although the visitors had justifiable claims of a foul against them in the build-up.

Keeper Wojciech Szczesny brought down Ramires and Frank Lampard scored from the spot for a Chelsea second.

Forward Theo Walcott’s clinical side-foot finish gave the Gunners hope, but the hosts held on for the win.

Chelsea had let a two-goal lead slip on Wednesday as they drew against Southampton and, when Demba Ba missed a gilt-edged chance for them late on, it only added to their anxiety.

They had to endure five minutes of added time in which centre-back Gary Cahill produced a vital last-ditch interception and Gunners forward Olivier Giroud headed just over before securing victory.

The win was only the second top-flight win in six at Stamford Bridge under interim Blues manager Rafael Benitez, who even had the rarity of Chelsea fans not booing him at the final whistle.

Arsenal had been overwhelmed in the first half and manager Arsene Wenger’s anger at his side’s display might have been the reason he sent them out early for the second half.

Although the visitors did improve and give their rivals a scare, their efforts ultimately came too late.

The Gunners had the first real chance of the game before they were overrun at a snowy Stamford Bridge.

Walcott, fresh from signing a new contract in the week, slipped a pass through to Giroud, whose left-foot strike went narrowly wide. The miss was immediately punished. Mata beautifully took down a diagonal Cesar Azpilicueta pass and shot high into the net past keeper Szczesny.

Wenger was enraged on the touchline as he protested against his side not getting a free-kick for a Ramires challenge on Francis Coquelin in the build-up to the opening goal.

The visitors almost responded with Santi Cazorla having a 25-yard shot palmed wide by keeper Petr Cech before Chelsea smothered Arsenal with the pace, power and panache of their play.

Hazard mesmerised the visiting defence with a jinking run prior to having an angled shot saved before Chelsea extended their lead. Ramires was found unmarked on the right side of Arsenal’s defence and, after Szczesny came out to make a spread-eagled save, the Chelsea midfielder went over the keeper’s leg to earn a penalty.

Lampard confidently converted the spot-kick for his 195th Chelsea goal, which puts him just seven behind the club’s all-time record goalscorer Bobby Tambling.

The only downside to Chelsea’s performance was striker Fernando Torres continuing to toil in front of goal, slicing a shot horribly wide just before the break – although his effort could not be faulted.

Wenger sent his side out early for the second half, despite the attritional conditions, and his half-time team talk had the desired effect.

Gunners centre-back Per Mertesacker and Walcott had efforts on goal with both shooting straight at Cech, while Giroud mistimed a header before the visitors pulled a goal back.

Santi Cazorla slid a ball though to Walcott and he confidently and clinically eased a shot past Cech for his ninth goal of the season.

Chelsea were playing more like the away team as they threatened on the counter-attack and Torres broke clear only for a heavy touch to allow Szczesny to save.

Ba was also played through on to the Arsenal goal and after rounding the Arsenal keeper on the edge of area, he seemed set to score only for Thomas Vermaelen to block his shot.

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