Arsenal rallies from 2 goals down to draw at Chelsea and stay unbeaten in Premier League

Declan Rice reacts.[Courtesy]

Arsenal rallied from two goals down to remain unbeaten in the Premier League after a 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Chelsea had looked headed for its biggest statement win yet under Mauricio Pochettino after Cole Palmer converted a first-half penalty and Mykhailo Mudryk caught Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya out of position with a lob from a tight angle shortly after the restart.

But Chelsea goalkeeper Robert Sanchez made an even bigger mistake at the other end to gift Arsenal a way back into the game. His pass into midfield in the 77th minute was intercepted by Declan Rice, who had an open net to hit from 25 yards out and didn’t miss.

That rejuvenated the visitors and substitute Leandro Trossard equalized in the 84th by tapping in a cross at the far post.

“First half from us was the worst we’ve played this season in terms of sloppiness,” Rice said. “But in the second half we showed what we’re about — that hunger and never-say-die attitude. We showed great heart and character.”

The halftime break had featured a tribute for Bobby Charlton, the England great whose death was announced earlier in the day, with applause ringing out around Stamford Bridge.

Both teams entered the match in good form as Chelsea had won its last two league games after a shaky start under Pochettino, while Arsenal beat defending champion Manchester City at home in the previous round before the international break.

But Chelsea was by far the better team for the first hour, as Pochettino’s decision to field a starting lineup without a recognized striker paid off.

And the hosts were awarded a penalty for a handball by William Saliba after the defender’s outstretched arm blocked a header from Mudryk. Palmer calmly sent Raya the wrong way to open the scoring in the 15th minute.

Rice – one of three midfielders in the game who cost more than 100 million pounds along with Chelsea’s Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo – had Arsenal’s best chance to equalize in the 20th minute when he was played through on goal by Martin Odegaard, but his finish with the outside of his boot went wide of the far post.

Mudryk, who was a transfer target for Arsenal before joining Chelsea in January, doubled the lead from the tightest of angles in the 48th. After Arsenal gave the ball away in midfield, Mudryk drove down the left flank and sent in a lob that may have been an attempted cross for Raheem Sterling at the back post but sailed past the flailing Raya and into the net.

Raya nearly gifted Chelsea a third in the 57th when his pass went straight to Palmer in the box, but he recovered in time to push the forward’s shot out for a corner.

“Instead of driving the ball with my laces I had to curl it,” Rice said about his goal. “It was a quick instinct about whether to pass the ball to someone or take it on. I was buzzing but we were still 2-1 down and I wanted us to keep going and get another. I’m glad we did that.”

After Trossard was teed up for the equalizer by Bukayo Saka, who made his return from a hamstring injury, Eddie Nketiah had a chance to score the winner for Arsenal in the 86th after running onto a ball over the top, but he shot wide.

Chelsea substitute Nicolas Jackson had the final chance of the game in stoppage time but his low shot was smothered by Raya.

The draw puts Arsenal level on points with Man City atop the standings, although Tottenham can reclaim the lead with a win over Fulham on Monday. Chelsea is ninth, nine points behind.

Instead it was a goalkeeping blunder at the other end that proved costly. Arsenal had struggled to create any clear chances in the second half before Sanchez gave the ball away to Rice, whose goal shifted the momentum completely.

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