Carabao Cup: VAR used as Chelsea and Arsenal play out stalemate
Semi-final first-leg ends goalless between London rivals at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 0 Arsenal 0
After the drama of last week’s Premier League match, arguably the match of the season that finished all-square at 2-2, perhaps it was inevitable that Chelsea and Arsenal would produce a dud second time around.
There was certainly little excitement in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final with both sides looking jaded as the Christmas schedule caught up with them.
Chelsea had the best chances but Cesc Fabregas and Andreas Christensen wasted the opportunities that fell their way, while Arsenal keeper David Ospina denied Victor Moses and Alvaro Morata with sharp saves.
There were also a couple of penalty claims that didn’t go the way of the Blues with referee Martin Atkinson consulting the video assistant referee (VAR) when Victor Moses clashed with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and when Cesc Fabregas was tackled by Danny Welbeck late on. But the evidence was inconclusive and play was waved on.
Neither decision upset Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who said afterwards: “I am very positive about VAR because when there is a big doubt during the game it is right that the referee and the other referee watch the video to check and make the best decision.
“I think everyone wants less mistakes during the game and I think this could be very positive for sure.”
It would have been a satisfactory evening for Arsenal therefore but for the sight of Jack Wilshere hobbling off in the second half. The England midfielder, who has started seven of Arsenal’s last nine games, was captain for the occasion but his participation ended when Danny Drinkwater’s forceful pass smashed into his ankle.
Wilshere’s ankles have a well-earned reputation for fragility and moments later he was substituted, grimacing as he walked gingerly to the touchline.
“He has an ankle sprain and the first look at it was not too bad, but of course for Sunday [against Bournemouth] I think he will be short,” said Arsene Wenger, who watched the match from the press box as he served the second of his three-match ban from the touchline.
“It’s his good ankle so I am quite positive… [but] I do not know how long he will be out. It is a shame to lose him when he is in such good form.”
The tie will be decided at the Emirates on 24 January and Wenger struck a bullish note when asked about the second leg. “It was a good performance,” he said. “We were well organised. It was a good draw and we have to finish the job.”