Arsenal survive Crystal Palace rally to go third

First-half goals by Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday that ended up closer than expected.

AFP| Updated: Feb 21, 2015, 23:24 PM IST
Arsenal survive Crystal Palace rally to go third

London: First-half goals by Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday that ended up closer than expected.

Glenn Murray, the Palace substitute, replied in injury time and almost grabbed an improbable point for the South London side when his last-gasp header rebounded off the post.

In the end it was not as comfortable a form of preparation for Wednesday`s Champions League visit of Monaco as it appeared for most of the game, but it was good enough to lift Arsene Wenger`s side to third place.

Alan Pardew`s Palace are now 13th and although their unimpressive home record continues to be a concern, they will take heart from the battling second-half display that almost brought them an unlikely draw.

With on-loan Yaya Sanogo ineligible to face his parent club and former Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh injured, it was no surprise the home team struggled to make a first-half impression.

Arsenal manager Wenger had no such problems, and after eight minutes his side extended their run of scoring inside the first 30 minutes to nine successive matches.

Palace left-back Pape Soare took too long to make a clearance and was closed down by Danny Welbeck.

Attempting to rectify his error, Soare tripped Welbeck as the England forward charged into the penalty area, and Cazorla calmly converted the ensuing spot-kick.

It was also the 10th time in their 13 home games this season that Palace have conceded first, giving their willing but limited team a stiff task.

They swarmed forward and tackled enthusiastically -- rather too enthusiastically at times -- but Arsenal looked more dangerous, and should have done better when Laurent Koscielny headed Giroud`s flick-on wide.In reply, Dwight Gayle fired a free-kick inches over the bar after Calum Chambers had felled Fraizer Campbell on the left.

When Francis Coquelin meted out similar treatment to the same player, Gayle crashed his kick into the defensive wall.

More subtlety was required, but at least Gayle was trying. Just before half-time he pilfered possession from the dozing Koscielny and hit an angled shot that was deflected behind for a corner by Mesut Ozil.

The Palace fans -- who unfurled a banner attacking the recent Premier League television rights deal that read: "£5 billion in the trough yet supporters still exploited" -- were also unhappy about many of the officials` decisions.

And they vainly appealed for offside as Arsenal went 2-0 ahead on the stroke of half-time.

Replays suggested that they had a case, but the flag stayed down as Welbeck ran onto Alexis Sanchez`s pass and although his shot was parried by Julian Speroni, Giroud crashed home the loose ball.

Palace looked for an early reply after the interval but Wilfried Zaha, played in by Campbell, took the ball too far wide. And when he later found Jason Puncheon, Cazorla flew in to block the Palace man`s shot.

It could have been all over when Arsenal broke away and Ozil fed Sanchez, whose shot with the outside of his right foot beat Speroni but drifted past the far post.

But still Palace attacked and after Murray had scrambled home an injury-time effort after inadvertently blocking Zaha`s goal-bound shot, he almost salvaged a point with a header that struck the foot of the upright.