Away from home, Arsenal defeated Crystal Palace 3–2 in a thrilling London derby at Selhurst Park.
Thursday’s match was a special occasion for Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger. It was the Frenchman’s 810th league match in charge of the North London club. Wenger tied the Premier League record held by his longtime rival and legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Wenger’s special evening was topped off by a victory and an overall strong performance from his players.
Arsenal entered Thursday’s London derby fixture against Crystal Palace unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches, in sixth place, and four points back from Liverpool and a coveted Champions League position.
Palace, under the management of ex-England boss Roy Hodgson, were unbeaten in their last eight league matches. The Eagles had picked up 18 points in 12 to move into 16th place in the Premier League and out of the relegation zone.
Perhaps the result was written in the cards for Palace, who had won just one of their last 12 matches at Selhurst Park against Arsenal. The Eagles last win over the Gunners came in a three-nil thumping of Arsenal last season, in which the visiting fans directed “You’re not fit to wear the shirt!” at Arsenal players.
Palace had previously been unbeaten in their previous six matches at Selhurst Park, having only dropped their first three home fixtures to begin the 2017/2018 Premier League campaign.
As one would come to expect from a London derby, the match got off to a frantic start with both teams vying for possession, sticking tackles, and going at opposing defenders. By the end of the first 20 minutes, it was Arsenal who took control of the match’s tempo.
Arsenal’s first, real chance of the half came in the 25th minute. Alexandre Lacazette saw his curling effort parried away by Palace shot-stopper Julian Speroni, but the rebound fell right to the feet of Shkodran Mustafi who calmly passed it in to put the Gunners up.
Mustafi did well to capitalize on Arsenal’s first goalscoring opportunity, and it was as cool of a finish as you’d like from a center-half.
Arsenal Mesut Özil nearly put the Gunners up by two just five minutes later. Alexis Sanchez played a brilliant through-ball that found a streaking Özil, who was in on goal. Speroni did well to make the save and prevent the visitors from extending their lead at Selhurst.
Palace winger Wilfried Zaha had a curling effort of his own in the 31st minute. Zaha’s shot never really troubled Petr Čech, who watched as it went wide of his net.
Lacazette threatened the Palace defense again in the 34th minute. The Frenchman fended off Eagles’ defenders at the top of the 18-yard box and showcased his quick feet, chopping and cutting at the ball. In the end, Lacazette got off an off balance shot that fizzled wide of net.
In the 38th minute came, perhaps, the second best scoring opportunity for the Gunners in the first half. Sanchez, again, played a mesmerizing ball into the path of Özil. But Özil elected to showcase the unselfish side of him, passing it off as Speroni sprawled forward to meet him. In the end, it was a chance wasted for Arsenal.
It was the visitors who were in control and dictated the tempo for much of the first half, and Arsenal ultimately created the better of the scoring chances.
It didn’t take long for Zaha to have a run at the Arsenal defenders and for Andros Townsend to find an equalizer for Palace.
Arsenal defenders watched intently as Zaha stormed down the Arsenal flank and showcased his quick feet. They then watched the Ivorian international’s slow-moving pass across the Arsenal penalty area, which was calmly slotted home by Townsend in the 50th minute.
Just like that, Palace made it 1-1 for a Pain in the Arse!
Arsenal found the go-ahead goal in the 62nd minute, as Sanchez switched from playing the role of provider to goalscorer. The Chilean did well to have a hit as the ball fell to his feet. Sanchez’s sweet strike nutmegged a Palace defender before sneaking past a sprawling Speroni and nestling in the bottom-left corner.
Sanchez wasn’t finished.
Jack Wilshere picked out the streaking Chilean four minutes later, in the 66th minute. Wilshere’s ball over the top of the Palace backline fell nicely to Sanchez, who cooly slotted it past Speroni.
Hector Bellerín looked primed to join the scoresheet in the 81st minute. The Spaniard’s flashing run down the right hand side was nearly capped off by a thumping volley, but Speroni did well to make the stop.
Zaha threatened again in the final five minutes of the match. The Ivorian attempted a header, which instead deflected off his shoulder and sailed just wide of the goal. The Palace winger also had a centering pass that was nearly put away before being cleared off the line.
The Eagles finally managed to knick a goal back in the 89th minute. Palace center-half James Tompkins headed past a diving Čech to provide the home side with a bit of life late in the match.
The latest derby ended in thrilling fashion and 3–2 in favor of the North London side.
With the result, Arsenal moved to fifth in the Premier League, drawing level on 37 points with North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Crystal Palace’s unbeaten run came to an end after 9 matches.
Shkodran Mustafi (25′), Alexis Sanchez (62′, 66′)
Andros Townsend (50′), James Tompkins (89′)
Čech; Koscielny, Mustafi, Chambers; Kolasinac, Wilshere, Xhaka, Bellerín; Alexis, Lacazette, Özil
Speroni; Kelly, Tomkins, Dann, Schlupp; Townsend, Cabaye, Milivojevic, Loftus-Cheek; Zaha, Benteke
Arsenal’s final fixture of 2017 is Sunday, Dec. 31 against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns. Kickoff is slated for 11:30AM EST on NBCSN.
Check back soon for the latest Pain in the Arse! Oo O O to Be.