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Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal - Semi-Final Finely Poised after Gunners Earn Surprise Draw

The first leg at Stamford Bridge of the Carabao Cup saw Arsenal earn a goalless draw away from home and it means the second leg is a winner takes all tussle between two teams who again couldn’t be separated - despite our poor form and a lengthy injury list.The starting lineup contained a few surprises, as some of the team that were hammered by Championship side Nottingham Forest were left in the team, through necessity and some strange choices.David Ospina kept his place in goal, and thanks to a lack of numbers, Rob Holding and Ainslie Maitland-Niles were retained, and Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck kept their spots up top.Alexis and Ozil were again left out of the side, perhaps with a nod to the upcoming return to Premier League action, but when Wenger insists his weak bench for the Forest debacle was down to reserving his team for this very game - this excuse doesn’t wash. The first half was quite even, with both teams probing for openings. Morata was keeping Mustafi busy, and Eden Hazard was busy. Jack Wilshere was our main man again, and his lofted ball set free Alexandre Lacazette who was lurking on the shoulder of the last man. The French striker showed his lack of confidence though, lashing high and wide.Chelsea struck the base of the post through Victor Moses, after the Nigerian beat Ainslie Maitland-Niles far too easily on the flank. The battle was being played out in midfield though, where Xhaka and Wilshere were holding their own. Possession stats looked favourable for us as we were edging Chelsea, but the home side were looking dangerous on the break. There was a moment when Maitland-Niles went to follow up a parried shot and the bottom of his foot was struck by the swinging boot of Moses, just like Hazard last week when he earned the penalty. Seeing as VAR was in effect for this game, surely Martin Atkinson would point to the spot?No. Maitland-Niles didn’t go down like he had been shot full pelt in the face, so there was no spot kick for us. The half was pretty entertaining, but clear cut chances were at a premium. It was no surprise when the half time whistle blew and the score was goalless. Both teams had cancelled each other out, but the second half would be a different story.Chelsea took a grip of the game, no doubt buoyed by a barrel from Antonio Conte in the dressing room. They carved out a few chances, but a combination of profligate finishing, David Ospina and some desperate defending saw fit to deny the home team. Then, disaster struck about twenty minutes into the half.Jack Wilshere was haring about, and in a lunge to block a cross, he stuck his leg out. The ball was travelling at some pace and struck Wilshere’s foot while in the air. It looked painful and would’ve sent shockwaves through his leg. Jack went off soon after, and now we face an anxious wait to see if another regular layoff is on the cards. Let’s hope Jack is back soon - we need him badly.Mohamed Elneny came on to replace the England man, and five minutes later, Lacazette was taken off after finding little joy from Antonio Rudiger, and our little Chilean - at least for now - Alexis came on. He had twenty minutes or so to give us a parting gift, if all media is to be believed.Despite the volley of shots in the second half, Chelsea still had one solitary shot on target, the same as us, who had been pegged back to a degree. After the substitution of Jack and the omission of Ozil, we were somewhat bereft of technical and creative talent. Alex Iwobi isn’t the finished article and Elneny is a solid, but unspectacular player. If we wanted to get the ball to Alexis in a dangerous position, we needed to move it quickly rather than methodically, we simply didn’t have the personnel.Chelsea had their spell though and hadn’t made it count. Our away fans had been fantastic, and our team were starting to come out of their shell, they at least shifted the balance of play out of our final third and into midfield.With ten minutes to play, the score was still goalless, and that was far better than any of us had predicted or could have foreseen. To finish this game with that scoreline and take it back to The Emirates would be a big boost.A big surprise with seven minutes left, as Conte took off Hazard and brought on Bakayoko in a move to keep the score as it was, and perhaps preserve Hazard for the weekend, though how much benefit a player gets from seven minutes less football is anyone’s guess.With minutes to go, Conte motioned to the 4th official for VAR intervention, when Welbeck went for the ball with Fabregas and Cesc going down, but after a minute of listening to the VAR official, a spot kick wasn’t given. If it was, and it would’ve been a fifth penalty in four games conceded - Wenger may have spontaneously combusted.As it was, Wenger anxiously waited in the stands as he was sitting this one out after receiving a ban for complaining about a penalty….Five minutes of extra time, and both teams were looking to snatch it, but the home side were looking more likely. Any balls that came near our area, we swatted them away agriculturally, rather than passing it out elegantly like we normally like to.We saw out the last of the game and we had threatened at times, though not with the vibrancy that we had done last week. We defended stoutly, though we still offered a little too much at times. We made do without our star men and some useful players, and we still got the draw away from home.We did far better than we could have thought before kickoff, and we would’ve taken it had we been offered.