Richard Jolly reports from the Community Shield where the FA Cup winners defeated Chelsea on penalties.
Morata endures ill-fated cameo as Arsenal savour more success at Wembley
It is an understatement to say there have been better debuts. Alvaro Morata’s Chelsea bow was marked by a missed penalty, proof that even a £58 million (Dh277.9m) outlay does not guarantee an ability to shoot straight from 12 yards. Their record signing seemed ill-fated from the off, forced to track back on the left flank, instead of leading the line, when Pedro was sent off.
It was a false start, perhaps a deceptive one. It may not matter. When fit, Eden Hazard is both Chelsea’s penalty taker and their left winger. Yet Morata was deprived of the momentum strikers savour. Chelsea were starved of another piece of silverware. Arsenal have deprived them of two trophies in three months. It required a late equaliser and a shootout, but their summer has been bookended by Wembley celebrations.
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The new era at Stamford Bridge began well for Arsenal. Diego Costa was the scourge of Arsene Wenger’s side. After a 1-1 draw, his replacement Morata granted them an opportunity to win the Community Shield which, courtesy of expert penalty taking from Theo Walcott, Nacho Monreal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud, they took.
If it was strange to see Morata shoot wide, Arsenal had already been afforded an advantage when Thibaut Courtois skied his spot kick.
“It is tricky when the keeper takes a penalty,” said Wenger, detecting a psychological shift. “When he doesn’t score, he is certainly weaker.”
Arsenal capitalised. It ranked as their 10th win in 11 competitive games.
“A performance to continue what we did at the end of the season,” Wenger said but the Community Shield can be an inaccurate marker.
A scrappy, bad-tempered and painful affair – Per Mertesacker went off, bloodied from a clash of heads with Gary Cahill – was shorn of some of the more illustrious names at either club.
Apart from Alexis Sanchez, sat in his sunglasses, Alexandre Lacazette was the only Arsenal A-lister on show. “He is getting better every week,” Wenger said and Arsenal could take encouragement from the sight of the quicksilver Frenchman striking the post.
They were the slicker and quicker, Chelsea relying more on resolve after, while Morata waited on the bench, wing-back Victor Moses showed a striker’s anticipation to give them the lead.
But on a day to invert expectations, the Arsenal arrival who scored was the defender. Sead Kolasinac is a throwback of a full-back, a forceful, physical player. In bygone times, he would have been nicknamed “the tank”. He doesn’t run past opponents as much as plough through them. He marked his Arsenal bow by heading in the equaliser in particularly emphatic fashion, though the impression is that the Bosnian does not do anything delicately.
With his quick footwork, Pedro often does. But Chelsea’s masked man failed to disguise his menace when he lunged at Mohamed Elneny to receive a red card, though not a suspension. Chelsea paid a different kind of penalty; the free kick conceded, and Granit Xhaka took, brought the equaliser.
“It is the second game [against Arsenal] we finish with 10 men,” said Antonio Conte, citing Moses’s FA Cup final dismissal and when already aggrieved that Willian was booking for diving. “I heard that it was clearly a penalty,” the Italian said.
If two of his attackers came to referee Bobby Madley’s attention, Morata’s miss brought a different type of scrutiny.