London: Chelsea won at home for only the second time in the Premier League under interim manager Rafael Benitez as they held off London rivals Arsenal 2-1 at a snowy Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Juan Mata gave Chelsea a sixth minute lead before Frank Lampard, whose Chelsea future remains uncertain, made it 2-0 from the penalty spot 10 minutes later after Ramires was brought down by Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
But Theo Walcott, fresh from signing a new Arsenal contract in midweek, brought the Gunners back into the match in the 58th minute when he outpaced Branislav Ivanovic and then shot powerfully past Petr Cech.
Arsenal pressed for an equaliser but European champions Chelsea clung on to all three points.
This result saw Chelsea, booed off along with manager Rafael Benitez after squandering a 2-0 lead in a 2-2 draw at home to Southampton in midweek, remain third and Arsenal, who have won only one of their last five matches, stay sixth.
“It was very hard, the second 45 minutes,” Mata told Sky Sports. “We were defending until the last minute. We knew that Arsenal never give up and even winning 2-0 might not have been enough. But in the end it was.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had doubts about both Chelsea goals.
“I thought [Arsenal’s] Francis Coquelin was injured for the first, and I’m not convinced at all that it was a penalty on the second goal.
“From what I’ve heard it wasn’t at all,” the Frenchman also said. “From the bench I did not see it well, but I’ve been told from people who have seen it on television that it was not a penalty.”
A frustrated Wenger added: “We made some changes at half-time and came out with a different attitude with much more initiative. We had Chelsea on the back foot but could not get it back to 2-2.
“We didn’t make enough of our corners and free-kicks. Jack Wilshere can play that final ball and make a real difference — he has it all in his locker.”
Chelsea were left six points behind second-placed Manchester City, the reigning champions, with leaders Manchester United 10 points ahead of the Blues going into their match away to Tottenham Hotspur later Sunday.
“There is a big difference between the top of the table and us, but we are trying,” Mata added. “We will try to get as many points as we can between now and the end of the season — that’s Chelsea.”
Across London at White Hart Lane, the 1600GMT kick-off fixture between fourth-placed Tottenham and United was set to go ahead as scheduled following a pre-match pitch inspection just over an hour before kick-off.
Victory for United would see Alex Ferguson’s men restore their seven-point lead over City.