Ruthless Chelsea conquer Highbury

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The Independent Football

To end an empire, the citadel has to be stormed and Chelsea's destruction of Arsenal at Highbury yesterday appeared to have far greater portent than the three points and the confirmation that Arsène Wenger's team can no longer be included in the race to win the Premiership.

Wenger conceded the latter after Arsenal's 2-0 defeat by saying: "We are too far behind Chelsea now to consider that we will challenge them for the championship". Understandably, he fought against the former assertion by saying that his young team is "developing well" and that all they needed was "more belief... because belief gives you power".

That is oozing through the champions right now and their manager, Jose Mourinho, was also correct in his assertion that Chelsea's first League win here since 1990 was "more than a victory". Afterwards he raged at Sky Sports, refusing to go on television and shouting out "Barcelona loves you". That was in reference to his belief that it was TV replays that had earned Michael Essien the two-match banwhich rules him out of the Champions' League knock-out tie against Barcelona, for his horrendous tackle on Liverpool's Dietmar Hamann in Chelsea's previous game in the competition.

Mourinho further soured an otherwise frighteningly powerful performance by refusing to shake Wenger's hand. "Do you think it is important?" he said when asked why he had not acknowledged Wenger, who said he would not be "losing sleep" over the matter.

Mourinho continued: "What is important is the 90 minutes of football. It was a great game for the Premiership." But not for its competitive edge.

Chelsea are 20 points ahead of Arsenal and reaffirmed their nine-point lead over Manchester United. With visits to Anfield and Old Trafford out of the way, Mourinho said they could "be at home, very happy because I know someone is going to lose points".

This was Wenger's 350th Premiership match in charge and the first time he has lost three successive League games. It could have been very different if a "goal" by Robin van Persie had not been wrongly disallowed for offside or if Thierry Henry's shot had struck the back of the net instead of the post. But, in the end, goals by Arjen Robben and Joe Cole ended Arsenal's run of 13 League wins at home.

Wenger was furious at the disallowed goal. "There were a few turning points on both sides and they went for them," he said, joking ­ injudiciously ­ that the referee, Rob Styles, had been on Chelsea's side. "We scored a regular goal and the referee made a bad decision," Wenger said.

There was, as ever, further controversy involving Essien after he caught Lauren with an elbow. A mêlée ensued. Mourinho claimed the Ghanaian himself had been targeted. "The situation I saw was 10 players jumping on him," he said, adding that it looked like a "strategy" because Essien has earned "an image".

Wenger was having none of that. "It was a straight red," he said. "He did not play the ball, he played the player." As for the accusations of collusion, Wenger added: "We did not even speak about Essien, so if it was a deliberate strategy we hid it very well because I didn't know about it."

Mourinho said that a player "who deserved two red cards" was Philippe Senderos, who had such a wretched game against Didier Drogba that even Wenger declared he would not have queried it had he been dismissed.

Chelsea could still be caught, Wenger felt, although not by Arsenal who he concedes are in danger of missing out on next season's Champions' League.

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