Gunners swoop past the Eagles
Written By: Robert Halter
Arsenal held an impressive record at Selhurst Park having not been defeated at London’s SE25 since 1979 which gave Crystal Palace an uphill task in their opening home fixture during the middle part of August. On six minutes, Alexis Sanchez, spearheaded the Gunners attack, and as the ball was pulled back by Nacho Monreal, the Eagles’ Joel Ward smothered the shot by Olivier Giroud, before the ball was collected by Alex McCarthy in goal. But three minutes later, desperate defending by Palace kept out Sanchez, as from Ward’s block, the Chilean’s rebound effort was hooked off the line by James McArthur. But on the quarter of the hour mark, the Gunners persistence paid off, when from the left, Mesut Ozil sent the ball over in flight, and in spectacular fashion, Giroud produced a theatrical scissors kick to beat the sprawling McCarthy, as his shot flew into the far side of the net. Midway through the first half, the Arsenal momentum continued as McCarthy was at full stretch to palm away Sanchez’s low strike from the right side, before Ward cleared the ball to safety. In the twenty sixth minute, Monreal’s delivery was met by a cushioned header from Sanchez which soared over the upright. But against the run of play, the Eagles got back on level terms, as Jason Puncheon’s cross was brought down on the chest by Yannick Bolasie and McArthur’s touch put the ball over to Ward, who rammed a low drive into the bottom left corner, from outside the area, in the twenty seventh minute. With a change of fortune, the Eagles pressed again on the left wing, when Bolasie swung the ball over, which the Gunners shot stopper, Petr Cech had to push away with his out stretched hand, on thirty one minutes. But four minutes later, it was the turn of Arsenal as Ozil’s cross was met by a crafted back heel from Aaron Ramsey, which produced an instinctive save by McCarthy. However, within ninety seconds, there was more work to do for Cech, whose full length stop turned away an in swinging strike by Wilfried Saha. Having already been booked for a foul on Bolasie, a reckless challenge by Francis Coquelin on Saha escaped another caution, before in turn McArthur received a yellow card for an infringement on Coquelin by referee Lee Mason, before half time. At the start of the second half, Alan Pardew replaced Bolasie with Jordon Mutch. But two minutes into the re-start, the Gunners had a reprieve as Connor Wickham’s close range effort crashed against the right post, after Saha had sent the ball over. However it was Arsenal that forged ahead as from Hector Bellerin’s cross on the right, the ball was headed on by Sanchez and with his out stretched leg, the Eagles captain, Damien Delaney, turned the ball into his own net, in the fifty fifth minute. Another card escaped Coquelin, after he gave away a free kick for pushing McArthur, before Arsene Wenger replaced Coquelin with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. On sixty seven minutes, Ozil teed the ball up for Ramsey, but he whipped the ball over the upright to spurn the opportunity. After Arsenal replaced Sanchez with Mikel Arteta, Crystal Palace brought on Chung-Yong Lee for Saha, before the Eagles took off McArthur for Patrick Bamford, while the Gunners switched Ozil with Kieran Gibbs. Time was running out on eighty six minutes, when from a Puncheon corner and a poor clearance by Arteta, the ball was skied over by Mutch and then two minutes later from another corner by Puncheon on the opposite side, the ball spun off the head of Ward into the reach of Cech. But Arsenal broke upfield near the end of normal time, when Ramsey’s incisive pass was met by a low strike from Cazorla which was saved by McCarthy’s feet. Then before the final whistle, McCarthy made a double block with his legs to keep out Oxlade-Chamberlain’s well driven shot from a Ramsey pass, as the Gunners ran out 2-1 victors to secure their first three points of the season.