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Arsenal 0-1 Chelsea: Early Mertesacker red allows Costa to pounce

Arsenal hosted rivals Chelsea on Sunday in a game between title hopefuls and defending champions.

Per Mertesacker was sent off after 18 minutes for pulling down Diego Costa, and the Brazilian struck four minutes later to give Chelsea a 1-0 win at the Emirates.

Chelsea had the first few opportunities, forcing Petr Cech into a save two minutes in and seeing a cutback defended well after five minutes. Willian had a double chance after 10 minutes but his efforts were first blocked then saved. The Gunners began to see more of the ball, but they were content to hold down the Blues and take advantage of mistakes with counter-attacks.

But it was a Chelsea counter which would truly peg the Gunners back. Willian played through a beautiful ball for Diego Costa, and it forced Per Mertesacker to cut down the Brazilian who was clean through on goal. Referee Mark Clattenburg went to the pocket and sent Mertesacker off just 18 minutes gone by.

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The Blues would take a deserved lead four minutes after the red card through Costa. The striker whiffed on the first cross, but another ball in from Branislav Ivanovic met Costa’s right foot and he buried the chance for a 1-0 lead.

A man down, Arsene Wenger had to make a change, sacrificing Olivier Giroud for Gabriel. Arsenal had a big chance to pull level on 34 minutes but Theo Walcott shot wide from a tight angle. They were forced back onto the defensive for much of the second half, as Ivanovic powered a corner on goal that was cleared off the line by Nacho Monreal. The Gunners had one more chance in the initial 45 when Aaron Ramsey looped in a beautiful ball for Mathieu Flamini, but the midfielder lept rashly at the pass and popped it over.

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Arsenal put forth a great effort out of halftime, but a man down, things got more physical than anything. They had a big moment in the 63rd minute but Alexis Sanchez’s shot was blocked at the end of a huge scrum.

Costa limped off once again after 68 minutes, like he did last week against Everton, forcing a host of changes by both sides. Chelsea would bring on Loic Remy in his place, and later on came Eden Hazard in place of Oscar. Arsenal, in turn, brought on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Theo Walcott.

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The Gunners turned on the Jets with five minutes to go, but the Blues managed not to break. The win pushes Chelsea a full seven points above the relegation zone into 13th. Meanwhile, Arsenal failed to take back the top spot in the Premier League, three points back of Leicester City.

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