Posted on March 23, 2008
A stunning double from Didier Drogba kept Chelsea’s title hopes alive after they came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
The Ivory Coast striker scored two goals in eight minutes after Bacary Sagna had put the Gunners in front.
Drogba’s goals stretched Chelsea’s unbeaten home league record to 78 games – but more importantly meant they are within touching distance of Manchester United at the top of the table.
Chelsea leapfrogged Arsenal into second place and now sit five points behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s side with seven games remaining.
Manchester United have yet to visit Stamford Bridge – and that fixture may have the ultimate say in the destination of the title this season.
Arsenal had been the last team to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in February 2004 – and it looked like a repeat was on the cards when Sagna headed home a corner from Cesc Fabregas in the 59th minute.
Chelsea coach Avram Grant has often been criticised for not being able to beat the top teams but his team’s stunning fightback may well have changed that perception once and for all.
The contest was just five minutes old when Michael Ballack tested Manuel Almunia with a free-kick that the Arsenal goalkeeper did well to collect at the foot of his left-hand upright.
But Arsenal, now five games without a win, had their chances too with Robin van Persie twice failing to beat Carlo Cudicini with shots from the edge of the penalty area.
Drogba was struggling to remain in the game in the opening half as he asked for treatment to a thigh problem – and he should have put home side ahead in the 24th minute.
A superb through-ball from captain John Terry put Drogba in the clear – but the ball bounced off his knee into the grateful arms of the waiting Almunia.
Cudicini had to be alert at the opposite end when Ashley Cole’s backpass almost found its way into the net.
Chelsea continued to chase a goal and Salomon Kalou should have provided it when a downward header found him unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box five minutes before the interval.
Sadly for Chelsea, Kalou completely missed his kick and the chance went begging.
Ballack then tested Almunia with a stinging volley that the Arsenal goalkeeper did well to save at the foot of his post.
The game sprung into life in the 59th minute when Sagna scored his first goal for Arsenal and put Wenger’s side in control.
Fabregas sent his corner arcing towards the near post and Sagna lost his marker Kalou to glance a header into the net.
The goal looked to have put an end to Chelsea’s interest in the title race but then Drogba found the kind of form which has made him one of the most feared strikers in Europe.
The Chelsea faithful were already beginning to fear the worst and chanted the name of Grant’s predecessor Jose Mourinho – along with ‘You don’t know what you are doing’ before Drogba lifted their ailing spirits.
The striker equalised in the 73rd minute when the ball cannoned back off Frank Lampard into his path on the edge of the penalty area.
Drogba reacted swiftly to drill a low shot beyond Almunia and into the bottom corner to put Chelsea back in the game.
But Drogba was not finished and eight minutes later the powerful striker had secured a remarkable comeback for the Blues with a goal which keeps them very much in the race for the title.
Joe Cole’s free-kick fell to the striker eight yards out and he managed to bring the ball under control before despatching a right-foot shot that Almunia could only parry on its way into the net.
Drogba would have completed a sensational hat-trick moments later, only for Almunia to deny him with a superb save at his near post.
The result will give both managers much to think about as the title heads for a thrilling and unpredictable finish.