Arsenal vs Crystal Palace result: Gunners left to rue missed chance in top-four race as Eagles secure safety

Arsenal 2-3 Crystal Palace: Unai Emery’s decision to rest players backfired as Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and James McArthur secured a deserved victory that makes Roy Hodgson’s side mathematically safe

Jon West
Emirates Stadium
Sunday 21 April 2019 17:38
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Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Premier League preview

Unai Emery's decision to rest Arsenal stars following European exertions backfired as Christian Benteke's first goal in almost exactly a year put Crystal Palace on the way to a deserved 3-2 win that puts the Gunners' top-four position in jeopardy.

Wilfried Zaha and James McArthur were also on target for Roy Hodgson's side, who exposed the Gunners’ frailties, especially at set-pieces, throughout the afternoon.

Home fans were treated to a sublime equaliser from Mesut Ozil and a goal from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but a run of ten straight Premier League victories was ended on a weekend when Tottenham and Manchester United, rivals for the two remaining top four slots, had already slipped up.

Arsenal now find themselves in fourth a point behind Spurs but vulnerable to being overtaken by Chelsea, who host Burnley on Monday and need only avoid defeat.

Changes were inevitable following Thursday's victory at Napoli that booked the Gunners a Europa League semi-final spot, especially as Juventus-bound Aaron Ramsey picked up a potentially season-ending injury.

Emery made no fewer than seven for Arsenal's third game in seven days, with Ozil and rare Premier League starters Carl Jenkinson, Konstantinos Mavropanos and Mohamed Elneny drafted in to keep things fresh for Wednesday's trip to Wolves.

Ozil pinged a shot at Palace keeper Vicente Guaita before the game was a minute old but it wasn't long before Palace went close from a set-piece. Scott Dann's header unhinged the Gunners back line and Martin Kelly might have hit the target had Shkodran Mustafi not been so quick to challenge.

Palace hopes usually hinge on a good performance from Zaha, who had outlined his desire to taste Champions League action sooner rather than later, and the forward reacted angrily to a kick from Matteo Guendouzi that required referee Jon Moss' intervention.

The conceding of another foul, and the inability to defend what followed, unravelled Arsenal in the 17th minute.

Mavropanos was booked for fouling Benteke, who was allowed a free header when Luka Milivojevic curled in the resulting free-kick. The marking had been non-existent and any hopes of a raised flag were dashed by Jenkinson playing the Belgian onside.

Christian Benteke scored his first goal in 358 days (Getty)

For the first time since 28 April last year Benteke was able to celebrate a goal that was actually his.

Mustafi nodded over from a corner as Arsenal went through the motions. Mavropanos did well to stroll past yellow shirts but shanked wide, Alexandre Lacazette saw an effort blocked and it was noticeable that Ozil was dropping deeper and deeper in search of the ball.

Benteke slipped the ball into the net again, from Zaha's pass, but the flag did go up this time, with the incident following directly from a big call in Palace's favour.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka's arm blocked Sead Kolasinac's cross into the box in a raised position that would get VAR officials reaching for the alarm button next season, but Moss, who had a clear view, was strangely unconvinced.

The half ended with Palace reminding the hosts exactly why they were in front however with Gunners goalkeeper Bernd Leno, having originally spilled a cross into dangerous territory, twice denying Cheikhou Kouyate at his near post. Benteke, again set up by Zaha, then spooned an even better chance wide before Arsenal left the field to mild booing.

Ozil dinked the ball over the head of Guaita to draw Arsenal level 

Jenkinson and Mavropanos did not reappear as Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi came on. The latter had a part in an equaliser two minutes into the second half that saw Ozil cheekily chip to fox Guaita at his near post after Lacazette had slipped him in on the left.

The newcomers had pumped much needed energy into the Gunners and Guaita did well to gather a well-struck Kolasinac effort after Maitland-Niles' pace had prevented Zaha going clear at the other end.

Arsenal looked in complete control until, just after the hour mark, they self-destructed at the back.

Zaha scores to put Crystal Palace back in front of Arsenal

Mustafi was the culprit. Benteke headed the ball on in the hope that Zaha could get on the end of it - and he did when the defender fatefully stopped in his tracks as if he expected that Leno was coming to collect. He wasn't, the ball wouldn't have reached the goalkeeper anyway and Zaha strode through to net his ninth of the season.

Palace tails were up and Dann arrived at the back post to volley at Leno before McArthur burst forward, but could not convert another opportunity.

The home fans were incensed by such a sudden capitulation that lurched into calamity when McArthur turned Dann's header from a corner into the net in the 69th minute. The Scot looked offside but replays confirmed that was not the case.

McArthur secured a 3-2 victory for Crystal Palace over Arsenal

Aubameyang had been quiet but pulled one back with 14 minutes remaining with a solo run that saw an attempted pass bounce kindly back to him off Joel Ward to set up a shot beyond Guaita.

Iwobi had the chance to snatch a point late on but could not beat Guaita as Palace held out.

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