Result: Crystal Palace 2–2 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 28 October 2018
Venue: Selhurst Park
Arsenal starting XI: Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Torreira, Ozil, Iwobi, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Cech, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Ramsey, Smith Rowe, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck
Luka Milivojevic converted two penalties to end Arsenal’s 11-game winning streak as Unai Emery’s men had to settle for a 2-2 draw away at Crystal Palace.
The Serb converted in the dying moments of the first half after Shkodran Mustafi had slid into the back of Cheikou Kouyate and then repeated the trick with seven minutes remaining after Wilfred Zaha was taken down by Granit Xhaka.
The Swiss had equalised with a pile-driver of a free-kick on 51 minutes and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang grabbed his ninth of the season five minutes later as we again improved after the break. A draw was probably a fair result, although it does see us slip to fourth in the Premier League table.
Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira, starting alongside each other for the first time since arriving in the summer, were quick to snap into tackles and break up attempts to feed the pace of Zaha.
When the Palace attacker did get on the ball, the plan appeared to be to double-up on him. Bellerin thwarted one low cross and then cleared the resulting header as the home side probed in the opening 10 minutes. As has been the pattern this season, it was cagey.
Then the game came to life. On 14 minutes, Zaha found himself free at the back post, took a touch a fired low. It looked a certain goal, but grazed the studs of Mustafi, hit the post and went out. That was the first of two quick-fire chances, as Townsend then shot wide from three yards out after a slick move inside Bellerin’s right channel.
Jordan Ayew, booked early for taking out Lacazette from behind, might easily have picked up a second on 18 minutes when caught Torreira on the halfway line. Referee Martin Atkinson gave the foul. But nothing more.
Our first clear chance came on 21 minutes. Lacazette and Iwobi closed down Milivojevic on the edge of the Palace area, the ball rolled freed invitingly for the former who on the stretch tried to curl home. The ball whipped wide. Laca buried his head in the turf.
Two minutes later, Bellerin had an even better chance to break the deadlock. The Spaniard had started the move with a neat give and go that also involved Lacazette and Ozil but when the ball came back to him eight yards out, he wanted too much time. His shot was blocked at close quarters. Nothing came of the corner.
Xhaka, again playing at left-back in the absence of Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac, did well to cope with the barrelling runs of Cheikou Kouyate. The Swiss was a conservative presence, rarely venturing forward. Perhaps unsurprising given his unfamiliarity with the role and his lack of speed.
Ayew continued to test Atkinson’s nerve as he tried to make the most of accidental contact by Mustafi on the edge of the box. The home fans screamed for a penalty but Atkinson waved play on.
Palace didn’t have to wait much longer for the referee to point to the spot. An almighty scramble from a corner, which Leno made something of a hash of, ended with Mustafi scything down Kouyate. Milivojevic, who missed last week, sent Leno the wrong way. It was Palace’s first home goal of the season and it came in first half stoppage time. (0-1)
We’ve grown used to half-time substitutions from Unai Emery, but on this occasion he had to reshuffle his pack due to an injury to Hector Bellerin. Stephan Lichtsteiner came on. We needed have worried about the change affecting our rhythm, we’d not really had any up to that point. Quite the opposite in fact, we reacted brilliantly. Inside six minutes we were level. And what a cracker of a goal it was.
After Torreira was fouled on the corner edge of the box, Xhaka and Ozil weighed up their options from the set piece. The Swiss decided to go for it, lashing the ball with real whip just over the heads of teammates and opponents alike. Hennessey got a hand to the ball, but it clipped off the post and rippled the net. The Swiss ran to the dugout to give Emery a big hug. (1-1)
With momentum on our side we quickly found a second. Again a trend this season. A corner found Aubameyang at the back post and he got just enough on the ball to squeeze it past Hennessey. Goal-line technology gave the goal. It was 9 millimetres over. However, replays showed that Lacazette’s hand had flicked the ball the way of the Gabon international before he pounced. In the Frenchman’s defence, he was having his shirt pulled, but if that had gone against us, we’d be screaming blue murder. (2-1)
Initially stunned, Palace came back into things. Max Meyer, on as a sub, hit the upright from a tight angle and hit over from a similar position not long after. Emery took off captain Ozil and brought on Welbeck. The German didn’t want his coach’s high five and threw some strapping to the floor in a huff.
We wanted to try and kill things on the break but in so doing we left ourselves open at the back. A poor pass by Lacazette, who’d collected the ball in the Palace area, left us backtracking. Zaha was given the ball by Meyer and went one-on-one against Xhaka, trailed a leg and went down in the box. Atkinson pointed to the spot immediately. Our left-back couldn’t believe it. It was definitely clumsy. Again Milivojevic stepped up and found the net. (2-2)
Ramsey had a half chance to win the game with two minutes remaining but he couldn’t get his head on Xhaka’s tempting cross. Deep into stoppage time, the Swiss then tried his luck with a free-kick from 30-yards but it sailed over.