Sánchez the saviour as Arsenal scrape past Palace

Premier League

Crystal Palace 2-3 Arsenal 

Arsenal marked Arsene Wenger’s record-equalling match as a Premier League manager by defeating Crystal Palace 3-2.

At a time when there are still doubts about Wenger’s abilities despite his remarkable longevity, in overseeing his 810th Premier League fixture the Frenchman equalled the record of Sir Alex Ferguson, his team displayed so many of the traits he inspires.

They often outplayed their hosts, securing victory when a finish from Shkodran Mustafi and two goals from Alexis Sanchez ensured they remain sixth and continue their push for the top four, but were also frequently stretched.

Palace had been undefeated in eight and, though they next host Manchester City, by often resisting their visitors and going level with Andros Townsend’s goal, again demonstrated they can survive.

The hosts had been the first to threaten when Yohan Cabaye struck just wide of the left post from 25 yards, but it was then that Arsenal’s first period of dominance began.

Granit Xhaka had already gone close when, in the 25th minute, as Palace struggled to clear their lines, Alexandre Lacazette’s shot forced Julian Speroni into a save that only reached the unmarked Mustafi, who tapped-in with ease.

Sead Kolasinac and Sanchez then combined brilliantly to send Mesut Ozil one-on-one with the goalkeeper, who this time impressively saved the German’s composed finish.

The hosts’ equalising goal began as so many of theirs do. Gifted space on the left wing four minutes into the second half, Wilfried Zaha used his footwork to cross towards Townsend, who under little pressure finished first-time into the bottom left corner beyond the diving Petr Cech.

Sánchez slots his second goal past Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni with defender James Tomkins powerless to intervene.

Wenger’s team required time to recover from that setback, and it was only after a lethargic clearance from Christian Benteke, also the Palace villain earlier this season, after the hour that they were gifted the chance they had needed.

When he half-heartedly cleared a corner to Calum Chambers, the defender returned possession to the Palace box and watched as Lacazette and Sanchez combined to create space for the latter to strike into the bottom left corner.

As is so often the case with Arsenal, only with a further goal would victory begin to look likely, but on this occasion it followed four minutes later.

With a brilliant chipped-pass from inside his own half, Jack Wilshere, often peripheral this season, sent Sanchez into space in the Palace area and, after he impressively controlled, the Chilean routinely poked beyond Speroni.

Discouragingly for Wenger, amid Palace’s pressure and obvious ambitions, they scored another late goal his team did little to resist.

It was in the 89th minute when, after a corner, former Tottenham winger Townsend crossed to James Tomkins, who under too little pressure at the back post headed in.

Further pressure was to follow, but Roy Hodgson’s team were unable to score once again.

Palace will be looking to prevent Premier League leaders Manchester City win their 19th straight league game when they meet at Selhurst Park on Sunday. They then travel to Southampton on Tuesday, January 2. Arsenal’s next two games see them travel to West Brom on Sunday and then host Chelsea on Wednesday, January 3.

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