Sokratis Papastathopoulos scored early but saw his late winner pulled back by a controversial VAR decision as Arsenal threw away a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium.
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David Luiz also scored for Arsenal, whose defense was a strength in attack and a weakness at the back in providing a 2-0 lead and allowing it to disappear.
Arsenal sits fifth with 16 points, one more than sixth place Palace.
Three things we learned
1. If at first you can’t defend… Arsenal’s oft-criticized center backs took the goals into their own hands, and if you’re up 2-0 within nine minutes it’s gonna be hard to be the goat. Sokratis’ goal came with calm after Granit Xhaka knocked down a clearance off a corner, and he was back post when David Luiz poked home a Lacazette-flicked cross to make it 2-0.
2. …You’re still going to have to defend, though: Arsenal’s backs helped give the lead away within 40 minutes, with Chambers cutting down Zaha — or at least daring VAR to go the other direction — and Luiz losing track of Ayew. Chambers really struggled, picking up a yellow card in addition to some haphazard first half passing, as improved defense in recent weeks appeared to be a magician’s trick after multi-goal concessions to Vitoria and Palace within three days.
3. Xhaka’s Arsenal career meets flash point: Voted club captain to the consternation of many Gooners, Xhaka was booed off the field when he was subbed off at the hour mark. The Swiss enforcer motioned his arms to welcome more boos, then yelled to the crowd to expletive off, cupping his hand to his ear before ripping off his shirt and storming down the tunnel. Things are not good in North London.
4. VAR overrules Sokratis winner for… something? As of publishing time on this post, there’s no clarity as to why VAR found a clear and obvious error that Roger East missed on Sokratis’ winner. Chambers is battling for the ball with several Palace defenders, hands everywhere, as he pushed the ball to Sokratis for what would’ve been a huge winner. There’s a problem here.
Man of the Match: Ayew? Milivojevic? Sokratis? We’ll go with McArthur, who was quite good and supplied the match-drawing assist.
An early corner cause Palace problems and put Arsenal in front, with Granit Xhaka settling Gary Cahill‘s headed clearance for Sokratis Papastathopoulus to hit through traffic for 1-0.
He could’ve had two had Luiz not also been at the back post to poke home a ninth minute corner, as Arsenal had Palace at sixes and sevens.
Lacazette had an effort saved moments later, and Palace fans were right to be concerned for the score line.
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Aubameyang missed a chance, too, as Arsenal really should’ve had a massive lead when Zaha won a penalty off of Calum Chambers. Palace penalty usually equals Palace goal in Milivojevic’s world, and this time was no different.
Palace leveled the score just after halftime, as James McArthur‘s cross hung in the air for days. Neither Luiz nor Leno could get there as Ayew headed home.
As poor as he was defensively, Chambers was nearly again an offensive hero before sweeping a shot wide in the 62nd.
Arsenal thought it went ahead through Papastathopoulous, but VAR found a hard-to-pinpoint foul on Chambers as he won what would’ve been a match-winning assist. Baffling.
Wayne Hennessey made a nice stop on a Lacazette header as the match headed toward its final half hour. He’d late stop Luiz in the 89th with a result-saving stop. Zaha came close to equalizing when he turned a Christian Benteke flick toward goal and burned Chambers.