Gabriel Martinelli’s thrilling rise continued as the 18-year-old helped 10-man Arsenal claim a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge
When the red card was raised at David Luiz and Jorginho converted the resulting penalty, it seemed the night was about to get ugly for Arsenal. The last time they were reduced to 10 men early in a game here, in March 2014, they lost by six goals. Another collapse felt inevitable.
But if ever there was a performance to suggest that Arsenal might finally be turning a corner, that they might finally be overcoming all the mental frailties and psychological scars of the past, then this was it. Instead of crumbling, they regrouped and showed a level of determination in the face of adversity which had seemed lost to them for too long.
They rode their luck at times, of course, surviving a string of Chelsea chances and scoring with each of their only shots on goal. But even Frank Lampard had to concede that their resilience was something special. After it was all over, they were out on the pitch – Mikel Arteta too – celebrating a draw which felt like something more significant.
It summed up the craziness of the night that it was Hector Bellerin who scored the decisive goal – his first in two years – and with his weaker foot too. But no player embodied Arsenal’s spirit quite like Gabriel Martinelli.
Gabriel Martinelli sprints past N’Golo Kante on the way to scoring
This time last year, the 18-year-old was playing in Brazil’s regional leagues with Ituano FC. But it has not taken him long to make a name for himself in the Premier League. His stunning breakaway goal at Stamford Bridge made it two in two games since he stepped in for the suspended Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, taking him to 10 for the season in all competitions.
It was not all he offered the side either.
From the first whistle right up until his substitution in stoppage time, Martinelli gave absolutely everything he had. When he wasn’t attacking the Chelsea box, charging inside from Arsenal’s left flank, he was tracking back, chasing down lost causes and snapping into tackles and interceptions in front of his full-back – and fellow teenager – Bukayo Saka.
“To play in this stadium, in the way he has done, with 10 men, and against [Cesar] Azpilicueta, who in my opinion is one of the best defenders in the Premier League, you need courage,” said Arteta afterwards.
“I wanted to take him off a few times because he looked knackered and he was cramping, but the next minute he is sprinting 60 yards again.”