Chelsea inches closer to EPL title with 0-0 draw at Arsenal
LONDON (AP) — Chelsea's pursuit of the Premier League trophy will go into May after the runaway leaders drew 0-0 at Arsenal on Sunday with a cautious, ultra-defensive display.
By protecting a 10-point lead over Manchester City and Arsenal, Chelsea can secure its first title in five years by beating Leicester on Wednesday and Crystal Palace next Sunday.
"It's a big step two where we want to go," Chelsea captain John Terry said. "We nullified them, we played very well ... and we came and gave it a go."
With strikers Diego Costa and Loic Remy already sidelined, Chelsea will be hoping that Oscar is fit for the trip to Leicester. The Brazil playmaker was taken to a hospital at halftime to assess whether he had sustained a concussion after a heavy collision with Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina.
Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho said Oscar "went to hospital to make some scans to see what is going on."
Asked if Oscar had suffered concussion in the collision, Mourinho said: "I don't know."
Chelsea was frustrated to have three penalty appeals rejected in the first half at the Emirates Stadium, two involving Oscar — including the clash with Ospina — and then when Cesc Fabregas was booked for diving.
"I think it's a fair result if you forget the penalties," Mourinho said. "A fair result. And I want to forget the penalties because I think the referee had a very good performance."
Mourinho seemed to send Chelsea with the target of avoiding losing. Injuries to top-scorer Diego Costa and Loic Remy meant no recognized striker featured in the starting lineup and Didier Drogba only came on at halftime when Oscar was forced off.
With Arsenal frustrated by Chelsea's rearguard, manager Arsene Wenger is left searching for a first career win over Mourinho. The hosts only managed one shot on target, when Mesut Ozil's tame shot was easily collected by Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois just before half time.
Mathematically, the title remains possible for Arsenal but unrealistic with the drought which stretches back to 2004 set to continue.
Chelsea's supremacy in the standings has not been reflected in the recent performances but it was recognized by players across the league on Sunday when the Premier League team of the season was announced by the Professional Footballers' Association.
Six Chelsea players were among the eleven and center backs Gary Cahill and Terry demonstrated against Arsenal just why their defensive abilities admired by their fellow professionals.
"Boring, boring Chelsea," Arsenal fans chanted after the game. Later Mourinho responded to reporters: "Boring I think is 10 years without a title. That's very boring."
The game's first moment of controversy came in the 15th minute. Oscar hooked the ball over Ospina and — as Hector Bellerin headed it clear from the goal-line — the Arsenal goalkeeper clattered into the midfielder.
Oscar lay flat on the pitch after the incident, and received treatment. He played out the rest of the half before being replaced at half time.
No penalty was awarded, much to the apparent annoyance of some Chelsea players, given that Bellerin had already fouled Oscar in the penalty area.
Then Fabregas was booked for diving when he went down under a slight touch from Santi Cazorla.
It was Arsenal appealing for a penalty when Cazorla's shot hit the raised arm of Cahill while the defender on the field.
Drogba showed why Mourinho was justified not to start him, managing only one shot after he replaced Oscar — a deflected effort that went wide with around 20 minutes to go.
"In the second half we played with a target man, more on the counterattack, but every time we recovered the ball on the counter, they made a tactical foul," Mourinho said.