Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal (Arteta 47(pen), Giroud 87)
Man of the Match – Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal)
Arsenal held on to the top spot in the Premier League with a hard fought win away to 19th placed Crystal Palace on a bright sunny afternoon in London, at Selhurst Park.
Arsenal started Mathieu Flamini in midfield alongside Mikel Arteta, after the Frenchman missed the Champions League loss at home to Borussia Dortmund. Crystal Palace named former Arsenal striker Marrouane Chamakh in the starting lineup.
In a dour first half, made dull by the Crystal Palace pitch team, who introduced longer blades of grass on the field to contain Arsenal’s passing game, there were few chances for either side. A Bacary Sagna was headed wide by Olivier Giroud, when he should have actually scored, with little pressure, and only the goalkeeper to beat. Arsenal were forced into a substitution, as Mathieu Flamini suffered a groin problem and was replaced by Serge Gnabry.
Marrouane Chamakh almost came at the end of a poor Mertesacker back header, but Szczesny was on hand to clear the danger. Crystal Palace had another chance to score, when an inswinging corner from Barry Bannan was completely misjudged by Szczesny, but Dikgacoi’s header was wide.
Arsenal began the second half, just as they wanted to, by scoring a goal. Serge Gnabry surged into the Palace penalty box, and was immediately impeded by Algeria international Guediora, for a penalty. Mikel Arteta cooly converted the penalty past Palace’s long serving Argentine goalkeeper Julian Speroni.
Another Sagna cross came in, but Giroud was unable to set his body well enough for the shot. It struck his shoulder and went wide. Dean Moxey saw his shot saved by Szczesny, before the moment of controversy in the match.
A cleared corner from Palace was hoofed infield, with Arteta and Chamakh fighting to take possession. Chamakh made most of it by bundling his legs in between Arteta’s and the ref had no choice but to send off Arteta, as he was the last man.
Arsene Wenger soon sensed Crystal Palace were going all out for an equalizing goal, and soon replaced Serge Gnabry and Santi Cazorla with Jack Wilshere and Nacho Monreal. Crystal Palace then had two fantastic shots on target, first when Ward hit the cross bar. Off the resulting corner, a long range Mile Jedinak volley was brilliantly saved by a diving Szczesny.
Monreal went on a solo run, but instead of passing at the vital moment, saw his shot blocked. Arsenal were making maximum use of the wings, as Mesut Ozil went on a run, but Wilshere failed to pick up the German’s pass.
It didn’t matter however, as Olivier Giroud scored Arsenal’s vital second goal. Giroud started a counterattack by releasing Ramsey, whose well cushioned ball saw the Frenchman head the ball past Speroni into the net.
It was a slightly laggy performance from Arsenal. There was a lack of pace, and a general understanding in passing. Palace defended in numbers, making it hard for Arsenal to penetrate.
Serge Gnabry’s pace helped Arsenal earn a penalty, while Cazorla had a disappointing outing. You get the feeling, he will take some more time to fully get into his stride. Overall, the defence was solid against an insipid Palace attack. Szczesny is maturing fast into one of the league’s top keepers.
Jai Arsenal 🙂