A ten-man Arsenal maintained their lead at the top of the table with a 2-0 win which was anything but straight-forward over Crystal Palace.
Mikel Arteta had put Wenger’s men ahead from the spot but before Olivier Giroud headed home a much needed second for the Gunners in the dying moments of the game, Arsenal had been clinging on desperately to a win nearly denied via Arteta’s sending off midway through the second-half.
The only change Arsene Wenger made to Tuesday’s starting line-up before today’s kick-off was replacing Wilshere with Flamini. But Flamini himself would have to be replaced only eight minutes into the match after hobbling off with what appeared to be a groin problem. The plot was probably about who replaced who today because Flamini’s substitute Serge Gnabry went on to make a telling impact on the game.
Wenger’s crew bossed Palace in the opening stages. Many expected that. But what many did not expect was the 0-0 scoreline at half-time where the home side had fashioned as many goal scoring opportunities as their opponents if not more.
Bottom clubs do defy the odds in these sort of games where everyone thinks they know the result and to be fair, Palace were doing a good job at that until Serge Gnabry’s intricate movement got the better of them. The German youngster was twisting and turning and then fouled in the penalty box by Guedioura before Arteta stepped up and dispatched the spot-kick.
Arsenal now had the goal they needed while Palace had seen the goal they dreaded, but this did not turn into any straight forward affair because sometimes the Gunners simply choose to do it the hard way,
The visitors had piled men forward in search of a killer second goal when a long ball caught Arsenal off guard and Arteta, last man at the back, hauled down Chamakh in a race. Despite it being a good distance away, the referee deemed the foul a denial of a goal scoring opportunity as Arteta was dismissed with over 25 minutes left.
It got as nervy as you could imagine at this point and the introduction of Wilshere for Gnabry and then Monreal for Cazorla to add more grit did help calm some nerves. But in truth, only a stroke of fortune and some fine goalkeeping from Szczesny really stood between Crystal Palace and an equalizer. First, a bullet-like effort from Joel Ward struck the crossbar and a minute later, Mile Jedinak volley which was heading into the net was parried away by Szczesny brilliantly.
Arsenal had their moments at the other end when they broke into a counter-attack with their ten men and with just three minutes left, Giroud ended the contest. Ramsey surged forward and held on to the ball well before floating it perfectly onto the head of an arriving Giroud who made it 2-0.