Crystal Palace v Arsenal
Kick off: Saturday February 21, 2015 – 3.00 PM BST
It was a fractured start to the game, with the opening minutes somewhat stop start due to a number of decisions being called incorrectly by the officials.
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We should have taken the lead through Mesut Özil, who made a run in behind and slotted in past Julian Speroni. He was incorrectly given offside however, and the goal was ruled out.
The decisions weren’t all going against us though, as Francis Coquelin escaped punishment for a challenge that many would argue should have seen him given his marching orders. His foot was incredibly high on Frazier Campbell, and the commentators likened it to Nani’s red card against Real Madrid in the Champions League.
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We took the lead with just seven minutes on the clock, and although it was slightly against the run of play, it was fair retribution for our earlier disallowed goal.
Palace new boy Pape Souare dallied on the ball, and had his pocket picked by Danny Welbeck. The Eagles debutant tried to atone for his mistake, but only succeeded in bringing our deadline day signing down for a penalty.
It was a tight decision, as the foul was right on the edge of the box. It could have gone either way, but thankfully it went ours.
Santi Cazorla stepped up, and calmly dispatched the penalty after sending Speroni the wrong way. 1-0.
If the players were hoping an early goal would sap Palace’s morale, then they would have been disappointed with what followed.
Alan Pardew’s side were applying a huge amount of pressure, and harrying us deep in our own half.
Wilfried Zaha in particular was getting a huge amount of joy against Nacho Monreal, and it didn’t help that the pitch resembled a giant slip ‘n’ slide – players from both sides struggling to stay on their feet.
Against a better team we might have been punished, but despite periods of dominance the home side were unable to create any chances of real note.
The best chances were in fact falling to us, and just before half time we doubled our lead.
Alexis Sanchez played Danny Welbeck into the box, but the England international was pushed a little too far wide. He managed to get his shot away, but from a tight angle it was straight at Speroni.
The shot stung the palms of the Palace shot-stopper, who could do nothing put knock it into the path of Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman struck it on the volley, knocking it into the open net to make it 2-0.
We had to weather a storm in the second half, with the South Londoners applying yet more pressure on our goal.
Arsene Wenger was clearly setting up to counter attack, and the plan almost paid dividends just before the hour mark.
We cleared the ball from a Palace set piece, finding Özil in acres of space. He carried the ball forward, and help it up just long enough for Alexis Sanchez to race past.
The German playmaker slotted the ball through to put Sanchez one-on-one with the keeper, but despite beating Speroni the Chilean saw his shot flash narrowly wide.
Giroud was furious that the ball wasn’t cut back for him, but it seemed like the right decision, and you would have put your money on the summer signing finding the back of the net.
Yannick Bolasie was introduced, and was a huge threat down our right side. We were starting to look a bit panicky, and every time the ball was cleared Zaha and Bolasie came straight back at us.
Palace were getting closer and closer, and Dwight Gayle and Jason Puncheon saw efforts sail inches over and wide respectively.
Wenger made a number of substitutions, with Kieran Gibbs, Tomas Rosicky, and Gabriel Paulista coming on for Özil, Welbeck, and Sanchez.
The defensively minded substitutions meant we retreated into our shell a little, which only served to invite more pressure from Palace.
Something eventually cracked, and Palace got the breakthrough goal. After a quick bit of pinball in the area, second half substitute Glenn Murray found himself in the right place at the right time to slot past David Ospina. 2-1.
We were lucky to escape with all three points in the end, as Murray almost leveled things up in the dying moments.
His headed effort had Ospina totally beaten, but thankfully he struck the post.
Despite underperforming yet again, a win is a win, and the three points is what counts.
Manchester United also lost to Swansea, which means this win propels us up into third place. Southampton will have the chance to knock us back down, but with a tricky fixture against Liverpool we might retain our spot.
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