Arsenal’s winning streak came to a halt in South London, as the Selhurst Park fans saw their first Crystal Palace goals and a much-needed point in their bid to beat the drop.
Palace took a deserved lead in stoppage time of the first half, when they were awarded a penalty for Mustafi’s foul on Kouyate, and Milivojevic stepped up to confidently slot the ball past the Leno. Having gone into none of the previous eleven games ahead at half-time, but having gone on to win them all, Arsenal could take confidence that they would get back into the game.
It did not take long for that to happen. Six minutes into the second half, the referee gave Arsenal a chance from a free-kick on the edge of the box. Granit Xhaka stood over the ball with everyone expecting him to put it towards the back post for his teammates to attack.
Well he certainly put in towards the back post, as he drilled it with so much power that the despairing fingertips of Hennessey in goal could not deflect the ball enough as it crashed against the far post and into the net; a quite superb free-kick from the Swiss international that any keeper would have struggled to keep out.
A mere five minutes later, and the Arsenal second-half comeback that their fans had become accustomed to in recent months was complete as Aubameyang forced the ball over the line to give the Gunners the lead. There was some controversy in the goal, as the ball deflected off a combination of Ayew’s head and Lacazette’s out-stretched hand towards Aubameyang at the back post.
The Gabonese captain reached the ball ahead of his marker with his stud to poke to ball goalwards, but it initially looked like Hennessey had made the same to preserve the 1-1 scoreline. However, the referee’s watch flashed goal and Arsenal had the lead, thanks to 9mm of space between the ball and the goal line.
The drama was not over, as Palace were awarded a contentious penalty in the 83rd minute, with a chance to level the score. Zaha made a trademark forward run into the box, with step-overs galore, as he tried to get past makeshift left-back Granit Xhaka. He knocked the ball past him as Xkaha stretched his leg out before pulling it back, but Zaha left his leg behind and found the contact he needed as their knees collided.
There can be arguments over how much contact was needed, and how much more Zaha put into his fall to the ground, but the referee blew for a second Palace penalty of the afternoon. Captain Milivojevic once again drove the ball into the back of the net to send the home fans into a rapturous cheer. The sides held out the final minutes and Palace had earned their first home point of the season, at the expense of Arsenal’s winning streak.
A Home Goal for Palace…Finally
Fifth time’s a charm for Palace as they finally give the home fans a reason to cheer, with the first home goals of the season. Although both goals were from the penalty spot, and thus with a certain degree of assistance from the visitors, it was no more than Palace deserved.
They had been one of only two teams in the Premier League that had not managed to score a goal at home, the other being Huddersfield. With injuries to target-men like Benteke, and the out of form performances from replacement strikers Ayew and Sørloth, Palace never looked like they’d break that drought.
Although it can’t gloss over the fact that although they got two goals against Arsenal, they were both from the penalty spot, meaning they are still struggling to find the back of the net from open play. It is a problem that they will have to rectify quickly, as a new striker in January, if they manage to get one, could be too little too late.
Arsenal Pay the Penalty
It was the Arsenal defence that cost them all three points once again, although there is an argument of unluckiness surrounding the goals. For the first, Mustafi was unfortunate that his attempt to clear the ball amidst a scrappy fumble in the box was met with the back of Kouyate’s leg rather than the ball. In the words of the TV commentator, he ‘scythed’ the Senegalese midfielder down, and gave Milivojevic the chance to redeem himself for his missed penalty against Everton.
There was contention over the second, with the familiar calls of simulation as Zaha tumbled over the challenge from Xhaka. Although there looked to be some contact on the knee of the Palace winger, the leap over the leg, and tumble to the ground, did look as if he exaggerated the foul. Although it was probably a foul, and thus another penalty, it is the exacerbation of the contact that does not help Zaha’s case against those who call him a diver.
Milivojevic: Man of Serbian Steel
It takes a lot of bottle to step up to the penalty spot, a mere week after missing one in a game where your team ultimately lost. It takes even more to do it twice in the same game. However, it did not seem to phase the Serbian, who slotted both penalties into the side netting both to the left of the keeper.
It is a rare occurrence for Milivojevic to miss a penalty, he’s only missed three of the thirteen he’s now taken for the South London club. You could see by the primal scream in his celebration how much it meant to him, especially as it got Palace their first point at home this season.
Aubameyang Scoring Form Continues
Where other top strikers like Kane and Lukaku are in and out of form in recent weeks, Aubameyang’s scoring form keeps rolling on. After grabbing four in the last two games, having only played 57 minutes combined between the two games, he sits atop of the goals per minutes table. Chosen to play from the start this week, he put his name on the scoresheet for the third straight game, albeit with the assistance of the goal-line technology and a suspect hand from Lacazette.
Aubameyang has now got seven goals so far this season, making him joint top of the goalscoring charts with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. He had been hotly tipped to challenge for the golden boot, and although he had a somewhat rocky start to the season, much like Arsenal, he now looks to be in the scoring flow, and the challenge is on.
The Fighting Spirit
Fans south of the river had been fretting about the horror show that could be the next month. Looking at the Eagles form, having lost the last three games, and looking ahead to a run of games that consisted of Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Manchester United, it did not look likely that their form would change any time soon. However, the Palace players put in a performance that showed a level of spirit that fans had been calling out for; for weeks. A performance where they fought for every ball, passed it around quickly and efficiently, and also had some cutting edge.
They could have had a couple in the first half, which was probably the best half of football they’ve played this season. Zaha was unlucky to find his low driven shot thunder against the outside edge of the post, and after a sequence of one-touch passing that even Arsenal would have been proud of, Townsend skewed the ball wide of Leno’s goal when he should really have scored. After this weekend, maybe the fans can feel a bit more optimistic about the next three fixtures, and hope they can take some more points off some of the bigger clubs.