Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Elneny, Xhaka, Iwobi, Alexis, Lucas, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Coquelin, The Jeff, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain
An astonishing first half goal from Olivier Giroud sent Arsenal on their way to a crucial 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at the Emirates today.
Arsene Wenger shuffled his pack with two games in 48 hours, and the Gunners were without the ill Mesut Ozil.
As expected the visitors sat deep to defend, but Arsenal had an early chance to go ahead in the 7th minute. Xhaka sent Monreal free down the left, the left-back put in a great ball but Giroud failed to make contact, and it just evaded Lucas Perez at the back post.
Alexis saw an effort fly not far wide, Iwobi’s 16th minute shot was saved by Hennessey, but a couple of minutes later we went ahead through an amazing goal from Giroud.
The Frenchman started the move with a flick in midfield, Arsenal worked it down the left, Giroud kept running into the box, Alexis crossed it behind him but he flicked it with his heel over his head and in off the crossbar! 1-0 – extra angles.
Mohamed Elneny shot wide as the game drifted into a kind of lull, Alexis had another go but again curled his effort wide of the post, while at the other end Cabaye’s attempt from outside the box was easy for Petr Cech.
Hennessey saved again from Alexis as the first period drew to a close, and after Palace failed to clear their lines the Chilean should probably have doubled the lead but saw his shot saved by the feet of the keeper.
There were no changes from either manager at the break, and there was an early scare from Palace when Benteke ought to have made more a good chance at the back post, but his header was poor and the ball drifted harmlessly wide.
A smart run from Lucas provided him a sight of goal but his shot from a clever Alexis pass deflected wide. From the resulting corner Sanchez had a goalbound shot blocked by Scott Dann.
The Gunners were pressing for a second goal and in the 56th minute it arrived. A low Monreal cross was cleared, the ball bounced up in the air, Iwobi was first to react and he looped a header over the keeper and the defender could only head it onto the bar and in. 2-0.
It sparked some life into Palace who, after carelessly being given a corner, forced Cech into a number of saves. He stopped a Benteke header from the set-piece, then got back to stop Cabaye’s shot after he’d punched the ball clear, and finally standing up well to a strong effort from Townsend.
Zaha fired over as Palace enjoyed their best spell of the game, but Arsenal got back on top. Bellerin and Lucas combined well down the right, Xhaka had a shot deflected wide, and Arsene Wenger made his first changes of the day bringing on Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin for Elneny and Lucas in the 71st minute.
That was followed by the introduction of Oxlade-Chamberlain for Iwobi, just after Sanchez had hit the wall with a free kick. The Arsenal number 7’s cross for Giroud was missed by the Frenchman but almost went beyond the keeper who had to stick out a hand to stop it.
Monreal picked up an 83rd minute booking for a foul on Zaha, Oxlade-Chamberlain added some drive and put in a couple of good balls from the right hand side which Palace dealt with to prevent the lead extending further.
Ramsey fired a shot not far wide as the game entered its final minutes, Xhaka’s free kick from the right deflected over, Ox was denied by Hennessey after a good Alexis pass, but in the end Arsenal took the three points and we saw a goal that will be replayed for years to come.