Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger fumes at first goal after defeat by Chelsea
Arsène Wenger said the Premier League title is Chelsea’s to lose after Arsenal’s fading hopes received a mortal blow at Stamford Bridge, but the Frenchman was angry with the decision to allow Chelsea’s opening goal to stand after Héctor Bellerín suffered a suspected concussion in an aerial challenge by the goalscorer Marcos Alonso.
The defender put Chelsea on their way to a 3-1 victory that took them 12 points clear of their north London rivals with 14 matches left.
Arsenal’s manager criticised the referee, Martin Atkinson, for seeing nothing wrong with Alonso leading with his arms as he leapt and caught Bellerín’s head. The goal was given and Bellerín looked groggy when he was replaced by Gabriel after receiving treatment. Wenger revealed that the right-back did not know what the score was.
In Alonso’s defence, he had a run on Bellerín after Diego Costa’s header came back off the bar and he appeared to jump naturally. Opinions were split on the goal’s legality, but Wenger was adamant it should have been disallowed.
Wenger said it was a straightforward decision to remove Bellerín and warned that referees are not paying enough attention to dangerous aerial challenges. “The decision for me was very quick,” he said. “You have to respect it’s the head.
“One of the particularities of the game today is that referees are much more severe with tackles on the ground and let more go with elbows in the face. It is not only today. In many games I see that but it is more dangerous to hit the head.”
Antonio Conte, Chelsea’s victorious manager, disagreed with Wenger’s assessment. “In England, it is legal,” the Italian said. “This is always a goal. Alonso jumped more than Bellerín and scored the goal. To hear this in England, I am surprised. In Italy, maybe. This is the correct decision. We can see a lot of these situations in England.”
With speculation mounting over Wenger’s future, the defeat leaves Arsenal to focus on Champions League qualification. Wenger, whose current deal runs out at the end of the season, admitted that his side lacked quality. Olivier Giroud’s late goal was scant consolation . “We are maybe not good enough in possession to make our game more dangerous,” he said. “We lost goals in positions where you cannot afford to lose it. It leaves us to focus and prepare on the next game. It is very difficult to come out individually on players. We were not at our best in some positions.”
Chelsea doubled their lead with a spectacular goal from Eden Hazard before Cesc Fàbregas added a late third after a mistake by Petr Cech. The leaders have picked up four points from matches against Arsenal and Liverpool in the past week, but Conte will not allow them to become complacent.
“There are 14 games to play,” he said. “There are 42 points to play for. For sure today, it was important to win against a rival. It was very important to face two tough games against Liverpool and Arsenal. Now it is important to celebrate this win but then at home tomorrow, it is important to think about the next game against Burnley. The league is not finished today. We must work very hard if we want to realise our dream.”
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