EPL

Kai Havertz bags brace against former employers as Arsenal hammer Chelsea

By Sports Desk April 23, 2024

Kai Havertz scored twice against his former club as Arsenal tightened their grip on top spot in the Premier League by denting Chelsea’s European aspirations with a thumping 5-0 win.

Gunners forward Havertz, who made a £65million switch from Stamford Bridge last summer, registered two of four second-half goals on a remarkable evening at a jubilant Emirates Stadium.

Defender Ben White also claimed a brace for Mikel Arteta’s title-chasing side, adding to Leandro Trossard’s early opener, as the Blues’ recent resurgence floundered in embarrassing fashion in the absence of key man Cole Palmer.

Victory moved Arsenal three points ahead of second-placed Liverpool having now played one game more, while reigning champions Manchester City sit four points behind with two matches in hand.

Outclassed Chelsea squandered a series of chances, with Nicolas Jackson particularly culpable, as they suffered a first defeat in nine top-flight games and missed the chance to climb to seventh.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men made the short trip across the capital on the back of a painful FA Cup semi-final defeat to Pep Guardiola’s City and without 20-goal top scorer Palmer due to illness.

Blues academy graduate Alfie Gilchrist was handed a first Premier League start as part of four changes, while Arsenal recalled Takehiro Tomiyasu and Thomas Partey.

The Gunners, who suffered a damaging 2-0 loss to Aston Villa in their last home game before exiting the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich, began brightly and led inside four minutes.

Declan Rice was afforded time and space to advance deep into opposition territory before slipping in Trossard to escape Gilchrist and fire a low left-footed shot from a tight angle which was allowed to squirm home by Blues goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic.

Chelsea’s evening could quickly have gone downhill but Jackson avoided a potential eighth-minute red card after catching Tomiyasu’s ankle with his studs.

Arsenal, whose players wore black armbands following the death last week of former club chairman Sir Chips Keswick at the age of 84, continued to be the dominant force.

Ex-Chelsea academy player Rice fired narrowly over from the edge of the box following a delightful pirouette, before the visitors almost snatched a fortuitous leveller.

After Jackson outpaced William Saliba down the left wing, his attempted cut back deflected off Gabriel and struck the outside of the near post.

Petrovic then atoned for his costly early error by denying Havertz and, moments later, pulling off a fine reaction save to repel Trossard’s effort which took a hefty touch off Axel Disasi.

A pulsating, end-to-end encounter showed little sign of relenting.

Gunners defender White produced a crucial block to deny Marc Cucurella after good work from Noni Madueke, before Enzo Fernandez side-footed the rebound just wide.

Jackson inexplicably handled a golden headed chance from Conor Gallagher’s cross as a breathless opening period finished with a flurry of yellow cards, including one for Arteta.

The Arsenal boss would have been keen for his side to kill off the contest as quickly as possible – and duly got his wish.

Petrovic saved well from Rice and Havertz before the hosts secured breathing space seven minutes after the restart.

Following a short corner between Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard, Rice was again denied – this time by the leg of Gallagher – only for the unmarked White to sweep in the loose ball.

The result was put beyond doubt just five minutes later, with the identity of the goalscorer particularly painful for the travelling fans.

Havertz, who scored Chelsea’s winner in the 2021 Champions League final, was superbly released by Odegaard and held off Cucurella to lift the ball over Petrovic, sparking wild scenes in the stands followed by taunts aimed at the away end.

Jackson’s wasteful evening continued as he hit the side-netting with only David Raya to beat before Arsenal piled on the misery for former Tottenham boss Pochettino.

Havertz doubled his tally in the 65th minute by firing home via the right post after receiving the ball from Saka.

White replicated the Germany international’s achievement only five minutes later when his attempted volley across goal from Odegaard’s dinked pass inadvertently flew into the top left corner to cap a humiliating outing for Chelsea.

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