Chelsea win capital battle
Rafael Benitez finally enjoyed some home comfort on Sunday as Chelsea avoided throwing away another two-goal lead by clinging on to beat Arsenal 2-1.
It was very nearly Groundhog Day at snowy Stamford Bridge, with the Gunners making amends for an appalling first-half performance through Theo Walcott's first goal since signing his new contract.
But it was not enough to overturn the two-goal head start they gifted Chelsea, with Juan Mata's strike and Frank Lampard's penalty - his 195th goal for the club - ultimately proving the difference.
A Barclays Premier League double over Arsenal also saw the third-placed Blues move 11 points clear of their opponents and cast serious doubt over the top-four credentials of Arsene Wenger's men.
Olivier Giroud drilled narrowly wide in the fifth minute after being threaded in by Walcott, a miss that proved decisive, with Chelsea sweeping ahead in controversial fashion less than a minute later.
Francis Coquelin was arguably fouled by Ramires and the ball broke to Cesar Azpilicueta, whose crossfield pass found Mata, the Spaniard controlling the ball before lashing left-footed into the roof of the net.
Arsenal's back line were all over the place, especially out wide, and Chelsea doubled their lead in the 16th minute with embarrassing ease. Mata found Ramires in acres of space six yards out and the Brazilian tempted Wojciech Szczesny into conceding a penalty - but crucially avoiding a red card - which Lampard slotted home.
Fernando Torres - sporting a severe new haircut - squandered a chance to settle the nerves with a woeful effort seconds before the break.
And Walcott halved the deficit in the 58th minute. As for the opening goal, there was an element of controversy as Torres went down injured in the middle of the field. Otherwise, it was all about the brilliance of Santi Cazorla and Walcott, the former's inch-perfect through ball finding the latter's perfectly-timed run, with a clipped finish to match.
Torres' departure for Demba Ba finally elicited a cheer from an increasingly jittery home support and they should have been celebrating again when the substitute beat Szczesny to a ball over the top but saw his finish blocked on the line by Thomas Vermaelen.