Bukayo Saka missed for England from the penalty spot as they experienced Euro 2020 heartbreak but the Arsenal man stepped up to score from 12 yards as the Gunners recorded a big win at Chelsea
Chelsea v Arsenal: Pictures
Mikel Arteta praised Bukayo Saka’s “character and courage” after the Arsenal winger put his Euros shoot-out nightmare behind him.
Saka helped reignite Arsenal’s top four hopes as he converted an injury time penalty as he took a spot kick for the first time since his heartbreaking miss in the Euros final last summer. Gunners boss Arteta was preparing to send on Alexandre Lacazette to take the penalty but Saka grabbed the ball after he had been fouled by Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta.
Arteta said: “When I saw Bukayo was going to take it, my first thought was to him back in the summer and what happened. But again, as I said before, when that happened to Bukayo it happened for a reason and he learned so much and matured so much which is why he’s having the season he’s having.
“For him to have the courage to take the penalty, because I’m sure it was in the back of his mind, it took great character and courage. I’m so proud of the players and the way they reacted. It was a mentally really demanding game after everything we’ve been through in the past few weeks.”
Arteta also praised Eddie Nketiah after his two goals in a thrilling London derby and admitted he has got it wrong over the striker who is out of contract this summer. “Good things happen to good people,” said Arteta. “If there’s one player I’ve been unfair with, then it’s him. He’s given me every right to do something different and if Eddie hasn’t played more then it’s my fault.
“If he hasn’t played then it’s because me, as a manager, I’ve missed something or I haven’t had the courage to play him. Today he showed me again how wrong I was.”
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Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel bizarrely blamed the Stamford Bridge pitch in part for his team’s defeat and Andreas Christensen’s mistake on the opening goal while he also backed a fan who angrily confronted Cesar Azpilicueta after the final whistle.
Tuchel said: “To say the pitch is difficult to play here, it sounds maybe like an excuse but it is a very difficult pitch we have here. It is not to our favour and the ball bounces very, very awkwardly when the ball bounces to Andreas.
“Honestly, I can understand the fan. Totally wild and open game in the first half. Already a 2-2, came back twice, we had a good start, gave again a first goal again which is absolutely impossible to do these things in consecutive matches. We are doing it.”