Arsenal pulled five points clear at the top of the table and ruined caretaker manager Keith Millen’s debut in the process, beating Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. The loss keeps Palace on three points and, should Sunderland beat Newcastle on Sunday, in danger of landing on the bottom of the table.
For the first ten minutes, it didn’t look like this match would amount to much. The visitors had over 80 percent possession, while Palace’s main goal seemed to be getting as many men behind the ball as possible. But Millen’s game plan worked: Palace escaped the first ten minutes without conceding, and in fact made it through to the halftime whistle without letting Arsenal score. By the end of the first half, Palace had disrupted Arsenal’s possession-based plan to the point that the hosts were able to try their luck at goal.
Sure, those attempts at goal didn’t do much to actually threaten Wojciech Szczesny: Kagisho Dikgacoi put his header wide, Barry Bannan’s shot went the same way, Adlène Guédioura had a go from far out. But Palace were in this, and they looked set to come away with at least a point.
Then came the second half. After just two minutes, the hosts had conceded a penalty. Serge Gnabry, on after just eight minutes when Mathieu Flamini came off with a groin injury, came rushing into the area. The midfielder looked set to launch a cross, but Guédioura panicked, bringing him down. It was Mikel Arteta that stepped up to convert the resulting penalty, sending his shot into the roof of the goal to drop down behind Julian Speroni.
But the hero fell from grace less than twenty minutes later when he felled Marouane Chamakh. Chris Foy adjuged the challenge to be a denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, despite the distance from goal, and Arteta was shown a straight red. With Arsenal down to ten, Crystal Palace seemed to believe they had a chance once more. In fact the hosts forced two fantastic saves from Szczesny, one right after another. The first was a shot from Joel Ward, with the goalkeeper tipping out for a corner. The resulting set piece sent Szczesny flying to keep out a strike from Mile Jedinak, who was certainly Palace’s best player on the day.
Yet it was 10-man Arsenal that had the final word, off a last-minute counter attack. Aaron Ramsey, racing up the left side, had little standing in his way, but couldn’t get into a good position. He held up play until support arrived, and then dinked the ball over the head of the Palace defense for Olivier Giroud to flick on for his eighth goal of the season.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Delaney, Gabbidon, Moxey, Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Bannan (Gayle 77), Thomas (Bolasie 58), Guedioura (Kebe 72), Chamakh.
Subs not used: Price, Mariappa, O’Keefe, Puncheon
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Flamini (Gnabry 8, Wilshere 69), Ramsey, Ozil, Cazorla (Monreal 72), Giroud
Subs not used: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Rosicky, Bendtner
Goals: Arteta 47′, Giroud 88′
Red Card: Arteta 65′