Arsenal draws 0-0 with Chelsea in Premier League
LONDON (AP) -Chelsea rode its luck to hold Arsenal to a 0-0 draw in the Premier League on Saturday, keeping the race for Champions League qualification in the balance.
The third-place hosts came closer to breaking the deadlock in a London derby of few chances at Emirates Stadium, with top scorer Robin van Persie and Laurent Koscielny both striking the goal frame in the first half.
Just like against Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday, Chelsea held firm to keep a clean sheet and stay seven points behind Arsenal with a game in hand.
"Under the circumstances, we have to be pleased with a point away at the Emirates,'' said interim Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo, who made eight changes to the team that beat Barcelona 1-0 in their semifinal first leg with a view to the return fixture at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.
The result leaves Arsenal within range of Tottenham and Newcastle, who are both six points behind Arsene Wenger's team having played two matches fewer. To add to Wenger's concerns, Theo Walcott hobbled off in the second half with a hamstring pull and is unlikely to play in the team's final three league matches.
"I think we were nervous today because we could not afford to lose the game,'' Wenger said.
Arsenal was desperate to avenge Monday's shock 2-1 home loss to lowly Wigan, a result that breathed unexpected life into the race for third and fourth, and created the game's few clear-cut chances.
Chelsea relied on the goal frame to twice get out of trouble - just as the team did against Barca - with Van Persie striking the base of the post from two yards out in the 14th minute and Koscielny heading against the bar when unmarked in the 42nd.
"They decided to lock up the game and catch us on the break only,'' Wenger said. "We had the chances and they had zero.''
For Chelsea, a point at one of its biggest rivals isn't the worst result but with games running out - Chelsea has four left - its best chance of qualifying for the Champions League now likely hinges on winning this year's competition.
They could have done with the likes of Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Juan Mata, who started on the bench, and were again reliant on the obdurate center-back partnership of Gary Cahill and John Terry - four days after their resilient defensive display against Barcelona.
Chelsea looked dangerous on the counter-attack and from set pieces but lacked the killer ball as well as numbers going forward, with lone striker Fernando Torres often isolated.
"Two semifinals and an away match against Arsenal in the space of six days is a crazy schedule,'' Di Matteo said.
"I think we are still in the running for fourth spot and we will fight until the end of the season.''
Arsenal's hopes of pressing home its narrow advantage in the second half weren't helped by the hamstring injury sustained by Walcott.
The speedy winger pulled up with the problem in the 57th but decided to play on, something Wenger said may have exacerbated the injury. Three minutes later as he attempted surge down the right, he came to a stop again clutching his hamstring and was replaced by Gervinho.
"Theo has a serious hamstring (injury),'' Wenger said. "(He'll be out for) 21 days. It will be tough to come back before the end of the season.''
Van Persie missed a couple of chances late on when he shot wide from acute angles as the Netherlands striker failed to add to his league-leading 27 goals this season.
"He played his 50th game of the season today,'' Wenger said. "And it wasn't easy for him - he was completely on his own at some stages.''
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