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Arsenal suffer fourth consecutive away defeat as top 4 finish chances fading
The Gunners desperately needed a victory to continue their charge for Champions League qualification. Before the match, Arsenal were seven points behind fourth placed Manchester City with two games in hand.
They came up against a Crystal Palace side that, despite winning four of their past five games – including a fantastic win against leaders Chelsea – were only three points above the relegation zone.
As expected, Arsenal dominated possession in the first half, however they were unable to create anything of serious note. Their only early effort of note fell to Elneny, who forced a save from range on eight minutes.
The Crystal Palace attacking duo of Wilfred Zaha and Cristian Benteke pressured the Arsenal very well and forced them into several early mistakes – setting the tempo for the first half. The Eagles had a couple of early attempts through Yohan Cabaye and Luka Milivojevic.
The deserved break-through came on 17 minutes when Andros Townsend – on his 250th club appearance – finished high into the goal from close range after a low cross by the lively Wilfred Zaha.
Arsenal responded strongly, threatening through Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck, and defender Gabriel. However, thanks to some typically strong defending from Palace, they were unable to find an equalizer.
After halftime, Arsenal provided very little threat to a well organised Crystal Palace team.
Indeed, the hosts began to exert more pressure. Benteke thought he had doubled Palace’s lead after 50 minutes, but the tap-in was rightly ruled out for offside.
After 58 minutes, Arsene Wenger had seen enough and removed Elneny and Welbeck, replacing them with Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud respectively.
These changes did not have their desired effects, and on 62 minutes Cabaye curled in a fantastic right footed shot from just inside the Arsenal penalty area to double the South London team’s lead, sending the fans in attendance at Selhurst Park into euphoria.
Arsenal immediately capitulated, with goalkeeper Martinez giving away a penalty for a foul on goalscorer Townsend after 68 minutes. The penalty was duly slotted home with confidence by Milivojevic – his first ever Premier League goal.
From then on, there was no sign of a come back from a mentally defeated Arsenal side, who were out-muscled and out-played for the entirety of the match.
Arsenal remain 6th in the league, seven points adrift of 4th place, while Crystal Palace remain in 16th position, although they are now six point clear of the relegation zone.
Arsenal next face a tough away fixture at Middlesbrough on 17th April.