Top Drog bridges gap
Didier Drogba's double helped Chelsea to come from behind to beat Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.
Last Updated: 23/03/08 7:25pm
Didier Drogba cast himself as Chelsea's title saviour on an afternoon when his brace rendered Arsenal's own challenge redundant at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester United's cruise control victory over Liverpool earlier in the afternoon had made the capital derby a must-win affair and it was Avram Grant that emerged victorious as Chelsea came from behind to see off Arsenal 2-1 in West London.
Arsenal had looked in control when just shy of the hour mark Bacary Sagna escaped his marker at a corner to head in at the near post.
Chelsea's response was magnificent and muscular as Drogba twice struck with clinical precision to delight those in blue and shatter those in red.
Arsenal had been the last team to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in February 2004 - and it looked like a repeat was on the cards when Sagna headed home a corner from Cesc Fabregas in the 59th minute.
Chelsea coach Grant has often been criticised for not being able to beat the top teams but his team's stunning fightback may well have changed that perception once and for all.
The contest was just five minutes old when Michael Ballack tested Manuel Almunia with a free-kick that the Arsenal goalkeeper did well to collect at the foot of his left-hand upright.
But Arsenal, now five games without a win, had their chances too with Robin van Persie twice failing to beat Carlo Cudicini with shots from the edge of the penalty area.
Drogba was struggling to remain in the game in the opening half as he asked for treatment to a thigh problem - and he should have put home side ahead in the 24th minute.
A superb through-ball from captain John Terry put Drogba in the clear - but the ball bounced off his knee into the grateful arms of the waiting Almunia.
Cudicini had to be alert at the opposite end when Ashley Cole's backpass almost found its way into the net.
Chelsea continued to chase a goal and Salomon Kalou should have provided it when a downward header found him unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box five minutes before the interval.
Sadly for Chelsea, Kalou completely missed his kick and the chance went begging.
Ballack then tested Almunia with a stinging volley that the Arsenal goalkeeper did well to save at the foot of his post.
The game sprung into life in the 59th minute when Sagna scored his first goal for Arsenal and put Wenger's side in control.
Fabregas sent his corner arcing towards the near post and Sagna lost his marker Kalou to glance a header into the net.
The goal looked to have put an end to Chelsea's interest in the title race but then Drogba found the kind of form which has made him one of the most feared strikers in Europe.
The Chelsea faithful were already beginning to fear the worst and chanted the name of Grant's predecessor Jose Mourinho - along with 'You don't know what you are doing' before Drogba lifted their ailing spirits.
Drogba equalised in the 73rd minute when the ball cannoned back off Frank Lampard into his path on the edge of the penalty area.
Drogba reacted swiftly to drill a low shot beyond Almunia and into the bottom corner to put Chelsea back in the game.
But Drogba was not finished and eight minutes later the powerful striker had secured a remarkable comeback for the Blues with a goal which keeps them very much in the race for the title.
Joe Cole's free-kick fell to the striker eight yards out and he managed to bring the ball under control before despatching a right-foot shot that Almunia could only parry on its way into the net.
Drogba would have completed a sensational hat-trick moments later, only for Almunia to deny him with a superb save at his near post.
The result will give both managers much to think about as the title heads for a thrilling and unpredictable finish.
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|7||Shots on Target||6|
|3||Shots off Target||5|