Clanger From Carlo Decides London Derby (Sky Sports)
Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
The last unbeaten record in England fell in farcical fashion as Chelsea's Highbury jinx continued with a 2-1 defeat to new Premiership leaders Arsenal.
London's most successful team and its most
expensive were level at 1-1 for over an hour until the otherwise excellent Carlo
Cudicini spilled a Robert Pires cross on to Thierry Henry's shin and into the
back of his net.
A frantic start provided capital entertainment as two South Americans exchanged early goals, Brazilian Edu putting Arsenal ahead and Argentinian Hernan Crespo replying for Chelsea. A draw, though, was the likely result until Henry unwittingly scored his eighth of the season.
That it was Cudicini's clanger was the more surprising as Chelsea were forced to field a makeshift centre back partnership of Robert Huth and Mario Melchiot. But the Italian gifted Arsenal the three points their greater urgency and will to win merited. While Arsene Wenger was bringing on strikers at 1-1, Claudio Ranieri was taking them off.
Chelsea may have the strength in depth and plethora of players for permanent squad rotation but Wenger's introduction of Dennis Bergkamp and, in particular, Kanu, had more impact than any of Ranieri's changes.
As Arsenal stepped up their search for a winner, the Nigerian played a part in a gilt-edged chance Henry spurned and then headed against the bar. The winner, though, came from two of Wenger's automatic choices.
It was a rapid change of fortune for Cudicini, otherwise excellent, and Henry, previously profligate. He had headed wastefully wide from Lauren's cross and was then denied by a superb stop.
The Italian had also denied Edu a second with a sharp save in the first half and made a hat-trick of stops in three minutes to keep out Pires (twice) and Gilberto Silva.
And the combination of Ashley Cole and Pires on Arsenal's left had posed a persistent threat, Chelsea hampered by Ranieri's decision to field stand-in skipper Frank Lampard on the right flank. More peripheral than usual, Lampard nonetheless had Jens Lehmann at full stretch to keep out a 25-yard drive.
Lehmann, like his opposite number, was helpless as the first two attacks produced goals. Edu's low free kick went under the Chelsea wall save for a touch off Ray Parlour. A scorer against Liverpool, Cudicini could not prevent Edu adding another against Chelsea. Perhaps Arsenal don't need Patrick Vieira on big occasions anyway.
Then Lehmann was left standing by a shot of unerring accuracy and deceptive bend. Crespo's three previous Chelsea goals have come on his substitute appearances but his fourth provided a compelling case for a starting place. When strikes are this sweet, surely even Wayne Rooney would be superfluous at Stamford Bridge.
Then again, perhaps not. Only Joe Cole even threatened a second equaliser as Chelsea's Premiership unbeaten run ended at Arsenal's hands. Sir Alex Ferguson hoped they'd both lose. He got one wish.
Arsenal Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell,
Toure, Cole, Parlour (Kanu 66), Silva, Edu, Pires (Cygan 90), Henry, Wiltord (Bergkamp
Subs Not Used: Aliadiere, Stack.
Goals: Edu 5, Henry 75.
Chelsea Cudicini, Johnson, Melchiot,
Huth, Bridge, Geremi (Hasselbaink 78), Makelele, Lampard, Duff (Cole 71), Crespo,
Mutu (Gronkjaer 67).
Subs Not Used: Stanic, Ambrosio.
Booked: Makelele, Hasselbaink.
Goals: Crespo 8.
Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).