Last Gasp Gunners fly past Eagles
Written By: Robert Halter
The shock departure of the Eagles saviour from last season, Tony Pulis, put Crystal Palace’s plans in disarray before the start of the 2014/15 Premier League campaign, as Keith Millen was installed as caretaker manager ahead of a trip to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal in the opening fixture on Saturday, August 16, as a resurgent Gunners arrived off the back of a 3-0 Community Shield victory over reigning Premiership champions, Manchester City at Wembley. On eight minutes, minimal contact was made on Aaron Ramsey in the penalty area by the Eagles’ Scott Dann but the appeal was turned away. The first threat by Alexis Sanchez was scooped wayward and wide on sixteen minutes, after the Chilean latched onto a knock on by Yaya Sanogo. The Gunners were initially kept at distance, as Joe Ledley lay stricken on the floor but Sanogo was unable to get his shot away, after breezing past Joel Ward, before sending a daisy cutter across the face of the goal and past the far post in the twenty seventh minute. But on the half hour mark, a pin point right wing cross from Sanchez was met instinctively by Jack Wilshere, whose measured strike was tipped behind by Julian Speroni, at full stretch. On thirty five minutes, after the Gunners had escaped a penalty appeal for Laurent Koscielny’s challenge on Ward, following Wojciech Szczesny’s missed timed kick to Marouane Chamakh, after the Gunners keeper had raced out of goal to clear Mile Jedinak’s through ball, from the resulting Jason Puncheon corner, the Gunners were delivered a sucker punch as Brede Hangeland on his Crystal Palace debut, rose in the area and off the side of his head, found the left corner of the goal to put the visitors ahead. Arsenal reacted as Santi Cazorla tried to rally the troops with a deflected strike half blocked by Joe Ledley that went behind Speroni’s right post. But on the stroke of half time, the Gunners were back in the game, following a foul by Martin Kelly on Sanchez, whose free kick was timed to perfection by Koscielny, who while kneeling down sent a header into the left corner. Eight minutes into the second half, Arsene Wenger made an enforced change of Kieran Gibbs for Nacho Monreal, before a further Gunners change was made as Sanogo made way for Olivier Giroud. Arsenal then had another penalty appeal turned away as the ball popped up onto the hand of Chamakh in the area from a Sanchez ball that had been sent over from the right flank. In the sixty ninth minute, Speroni had to sprawl a long the ground to clutch hold of a Sanchez strike, after a lay off from Cazorla. In the final Arsenal change, Wilshere was taken off following a clumsy challenge on him by Chamakh, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took over. Speroni then stifled another Gunners shot, when Ramsey was unable to get a clean strike to Sanchez’s left sided cross. An injury to Dann gave the Eagles’ Damien Delaney, a run out for the final quarter of an hour in normal time. A minute later, the ball flashed past Giroud’s out stretched left peg, from Monreal’s whipped in cross from the left wing. As the game approached eighty four minutes, Sanchez slipped a pass to Giroud but his drive eluded the far post. Another Palace change was made as Dwight Gayle had a cameo appearance in favour of Frazier Campbell. Near the end, the Eagles were reduced to ten men, as Pucheon was sent off for a second bookable offence for a challenge on Monreal, having earlier been carded for a foul on Ramsey. After Stuart O’ Keefe took over from Yannick Bolasie, the Eagles resistance was finally broken on the stroke of full time, when from a Oxlade-Chamberlain cross, Koscielny’s header was knocked on by Giroud and a shot by Mathieu Debuchy on the turn was spilled out by Speroni and as the ball fell to Ramsey, the Welshman fired home from close range to secure three priceless points for the Gunners on the opening day.