Arsenal vs Crystal Palace match report: Aaron Ramsey hits Palace with yet another late blow
Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 1: Arsenal recover from early setback to pile more misery on a team still feeling the manager’s exit
A year ago Arsenal opened the season by losing 3-1 at home to Aston Villa in front of a mutinous crowd vociferously demanding of Arsène Wenger he “spend some effing money”. An era seemed to be drawing to a close. In the event the campaign ended rather well with the first silverware in nine years.
So what to make of this start? There were some dissenting voices again as the seconds ticked away and managerless Crystal Palace first shocked, then frustrated, a Gunners side with designs on the title. But most fans remained patient and their faith, and Arsenal’s persistence, was rewarded when Aaron Ramsey scrambled in a last-minute winner.
Arsenal go to Turkey for Tuesday’s Champions’ League play-off first-leg tie against Besiktas in Istanbul in good heart, but it was a darn close thing. Palace led after 35 minutes through Brede Hangeland and, though Laurent Koscielny levelled just before the break, looked more than capable of holding out for a morale-bosting point.
Then Jason Puncheon, already on a yellow card, made a daft tackle and was dismissed. Seconds later, in a goalmouth scramble, Palace found themselves a body short as Ramsey was left free to turn in the rebound after Julian Speroni had blocked a shot by Mathieu Debuchy.
“It is no coincidence, he turns up where he needs to be,” said Wenger of Ramsey’s aptitude for goalscoring. The Arsenal manager added: “It was difficult for us because of Palace’s physicality and organisation, but we kept going, it was enough to win the game. We are the only team that has won at home. That shows you it is difficult for everyone. We have the three points, let us focus now on Besiktas.”
For Keith Millen, Palace’s caretaker manager, the immediate focus is closer to home. When he stood in for Ian Holloway as Palace endured a nightmare start to last season he said that he did not want to take over permanently. A year on, the former Bristol City manager is throwing his hat into the ring.
“I want to continue,” he said. “I enjoy being in charge, working at this club and with the players. I will speak to the chairman tomorrow. A year ago it was different, I felt we needed someone with experience like Tony [Pulis] to give us the belief we could compete in the Premier League. We have that now.”
However, Millen's chances seem slim as chairman Steve Parish said on Match of the Day that he would be seeking a man with experience of the Premier League, which Millen largely lacks. Malky Mackay, or Tim Sherwood, would appear more likely candidates.
Millen added of the game: “I’m proud of the players, of the performance, but disappointed not to get something out of it. When you think of what the players have been through, you never know how they will react. Before the game I said to them, ‘don’t let there be any excuses, I don’t want to be saying [to the media] your heads weren’t right’. You could see they will work hard for each other and the club.”
It was an encouraging performance, having lost Pulis on Thursday night. Tellingly, there seemed to be no display of support or affection for Pulis from the travelling fans, though their team’s dogged resistance had his stamp all over it. Palace had a trio of newcomers including Martin Kelly, who had one training session under Pulis having only signed on Thursday. Hangeland and Fraizer Campbell were the others. Arsenal matched them having started with the same XI that beat Manchester City 3-0 in last weekend’s Community Shield. It meant league debuts for Alexis Sanchez, Debuchy and Calum Chambers, again at centre-half. Yaya Sanogo was preferred to Olivier Giroud – in part because of the midweek trip to Turkey.
Koscielny celebrates scoring an equaliser for Arsenal to make it 1-1
The match quickly settled into the expected pattern. Arsenal dominated possession but, with Palace sitting deep and wide, found it difficult to penetrate a back four protected by the bearded, piratical-looking pair of Mile Jedinak and Joe Ledley. Playing two up front, Arsenal looked narrow even if Alexis frequently pulled away to the right flank. The closest they came in the opening half-hour was a shot on that mark from Jack Wilshere that Speroni scrambled away for a corner.
Then Palace stunned Arsenal (and maybe themselves). Wojciech Szczesny miscued as he sought to hack clear a through-ball. His kick fell to Marouane Chamakh nearly 40 yards out and the ex-Arsenal striker attempted to whack it into the unguarded goal. Koscielny blocked but Palace won a corner. When Puncheon swung it over Hangeland broke free at the near post to glance it inside the far post. The Palace fans roared: “Who needs a manager?”
Arsenal equalised from another set-piece, a free-kick floated forward by Alexis which Koscielny stooped to turn inside the post. In one match Palace had conceded as many goals from dead-balls as they did in 26 games under Pulis.
Arsenal had to make an early change in the second period when Kieran Gibbs felt his hamstring but it was an unenforced one that brought the crowd to life on the hour, Giroud replacing the anonymous Sanogo. Palace continued, however, to resist even after Scott Dann was forced off though injury.
A draw loomed. Then Puncheon clattered Nacho Monreal and a pocket of space opened up which Arsenal ruthlessly exploited.
Arsenal (4-1-3-2): Szczesny; Debuchy, Chambers, Koscielny, Gibbs (Monreal, 53); Arteta; Wilshire (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 69), Ramsey, Cazorla; Alexis, Sanogo (Giroud, 62).
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Speroni; Kelly, Dann (Delaney, 74), Hangeland, Ward; Jedinak, Ledley; Puncheon, Chamakh, Bolasie (O’Keefe, 90); Campbell (Gayle, 85).
Referee: J Moss
Man of the match: Hangeland (Crystal Palace)
Match rating: 6/10
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