Arsenal 2-3 Crystal Palace: Gunners defensive woes return during disappointing defeat
PUBLISHED: 17:54 21 April 2019 | UPDATED: 19:16 21 April 2019
PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal hosted Crystal Palace on Sunday. Read on for Layth Yousif's match report from the Emirates.
Crystal Palace beat Arsenal 3-2 at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon.
A first half goal from Christian Benteke put Palace ahead before the game exploded into life in a lively if frustrating second period which saw the south Londoners clinch victory.
Mesut Ozil equalised shortly after the break before Wilfried Zaha put the Eagles 2-1 ahead. James McArthur made it three before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled a goal back to set up a tense finish, but the home side couldn't achieve parity.
Unai Emery made six changes to the side that triumphed in Naples to progress to the Europa League semi-final.
Shkodran Mustafi returned in place of the suspended Sokratis, while Carl Jenkinson – fresh from a goal in an excellent performance during the U23s 3-1 win over Chelsea u23s on Monday evening – took the place of Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
With Aaron Ramsey struggling to appear in the red and white of Arsenal again before his summer move to Juventus on a free transfer, after his injury on Thursday against Naples, Ozil started.
The influential Granit Xhaka was rested for Mo Elneny to return alongside Matteo Guendouzi who took Lucas Torreira's spot after the diminutive Uruguayan was benched.
While the prospect of lifting silverware in Europe's second tier competition remains very much alive, after a 1-0 victory in southern Italy saw the Gunners ease through to the last four 3-0 on aggregate on Thursday, a top four finish in the Premier League is what the North Londoners are chasing to ensure a return to the top table of the Champions League.
Of course if the Gunners see off Valencia over two legs in early May and win the final in far flung Baku the promised land will be reached that way.
But, as every football fan knows, not many football issues are settled in April, and it was a return to league action at the Emirates, and the quest for three more vital points against Roy Hodgson's Eagles - to add to the hard-fought 1-0 win at Vicarage Road six days ago against ten-man Watford - was paramount.
The win in Hertfordshire through Aubameyang's early predator's strike settled the nerves for a few hours at least. The triumph also showed the Gunners had cojones after Troy Deeney was correctly sent off for elbowing Lucas Torreira.
Six days on and Arsenal had to show character again, this time against Palace after falling behind early on after slack marking.
On a gloriously sunny Easter Sunday Christian Benteke put the visitors ahead on 17 minutes after nodding home Luka Milivojevic's free-kick to make it 1-0 to the south Londoners.
The header came after Mavropanos gave away a foul along Arsenal's left channel, receiving a yellow card from referee Jon Moss.
The goal was disappointing for Arsenal to concede as the former Liverpool striker headed home in acres of space only yards from Bernd Leno's goaline.
Doubly so considering the solidity the Gunners showed in the two clean sheets they picked up in the pair of 1-0 wins over the Hornets and Napoli.
Leno, who picked up Arsenal's player of the month award for March after a superb double save at Wembley in the North London derby against the Lillywhites, was at it again, before half-time.
The 27-year-old former Bayer Leverkusen shot-stopper twice denied Palace No8 Cheikhou Kouyate at his near post to ensure the score remained only at 1-0 to the visitors.
Emery changed Mavropanos for Alex Iwobi to attacking further attacking options to the team. The move paid dividends early in the second half after an excellent reverse ball from Alexandre Lacazette fed Ozil in the box.
The talented German took the ball in his elegant stride before firing past Palace keeper Vicente Guaita to make it 1-1.
Just when you thought the stage was set for a grandstand finish the Gunners conceded a second through Wilfried Zaha after he eased past a floundering Mustafi before slotting past Leno to put Palace ahead again on 61 minutes.
Eight minutes later Hodgson's side extended their lead further when James McArthur had the freedom of the box to make it 3-1.
Aubameyang pulled a goal back with a low shot across Guaita's goal after the ball rebounded back to him while trying to feed strike partner Lacazette to make it 3-2 and set up a tense last 13 minutes for both sets of supporters.