The Big Match

Abba blues for Chelsea

Sead Kolasinac (far left) heads in a late equaliser on his Arsenal debut. The Bosnian defender replaced the injured Per Mertesacker in the first half.
Sead Kolasinac (far left) heads in a late equaliser on his Arsenal debut. The Bosnian defender replaced the injured Per Mertesacker in the first half.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Courtois misses spot kick as Arsenal win in new shoot-out format against 10-man rivals

LONDON • Seventy-one days after Arsenal defeated Chelsea to win the FA Cup final at Wembley, they were at it again - winning the Community Shield at Wembley with a performance that once again displayed a combination of resilience and ruthlessness.

Having fallen behind to Victor Moses' 46th-minute strike, Arsenal could quite easily have crumbled against opponents who for so long had caused them grief. But, instead, they kept going and, as was the case in May, found a way back via Sead Kolasinac's late equaliser.

That took yesterday's match into penalties and, via the new, Fifa-approved ABBA system, Arsenal triumphed 4-1 with their collective joy erupting after Olivier Giroud rammed the decisive spot-kick past Thibaut Courtois.

The ABBA format is similar to that used in tennis tie-breaks, in which one player serves first, with the other player then serving the next two points.

The mood among those in blue was, not surprisingly, one of glumness, with no one in the champions' ranks looking more sick at the outcome than manager Antonio Conte.

This has been a tetchy and difficult summer for the Italian and, while he can take heart from how his players performed for large spells of what was a fiery friendly - including four bookings and one red card, he may just have departed from north London with the sense that yet again - and as he has feared for some time - Chelsea have reacted to a title triumph with a backward step.

Goalkeeper Courtois and star signing Alvaro Morata were the fall guys at the penalty shootout.

Courtois blazed his penalty over the bar before substitute Morata, a £58 million (S$103 million) capture from Real Madrid, shot wide, allowing Giroud to seal victory for Arsenal.

Arsenal, embarking upon their first season without Champions League football since 1997, have won on their last nine visits to Wembley, a run stretching back to a victory over Wigan Athletic in the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 2014.

Moses put the champions ahead early in the second half.

But, after Pedro had been shown a straight red card for an ugly challenge on Mohamed Elneny, Kolasinac headed in an 81st-minute equaliser to leave the game 1-1 at full-time.

In the penalty shootout, Gary Cahill scored for Chelsea before Theo Walcott did the same for Arsenal.

Nacho Monreal made it 2-1 for the FA Cup holders before the surprising appearance of Courtois as the next taker.

He thrashed his drive over the bar, becoming the second goalkeeper to miss a penalty in the Community Shield after David Seaman.

And, when Morata also missed with a low drive that clipped the post, the writing was on the wall.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made it 3-1 to Arsenal and Giroud did the rest. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who spent much of last season under fire from supporters frustrated by Arsenal's travails, was quick to call for unity in the stands ahead of Friday's Premier League opener against Leicester.

"I would like they stand behind the team as we might go through some very good periods and some not so good periods," he said.

"We want to be united and together throughout the season.

"Every game is a battle in the Premier League, like today. It is a dream to make the fans happy, a difficult dream but we try hard."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2017, with the headline 'Abba blues for Chelsea'. Print Edition | Subscribe