Crystal Palace 1 Arsenal 2
( Ward 28, Giroud 16, Delaney 55 og )

Arsenal took all three points in a tough all round encounter against a resilient Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Sunday. Olivier Giroud’s acrobatic opener gave the Gunners the lead, but the home side drew level from Joel Ward’s low driving effort. Having misplaced or over worked a succession of earlier chances to extend their lead, it was the sting in the Palace tail. The Gunners however were required to hold firm, and having adopted a more steely approach, retook the lead in the second half when Alexis Sanchez’s powerful header was deflected in off Damien Delaney. Francis Coquelin epitomised the defensive duties which his side had to muster as the raucous atmosphere demanded a further Palace goal. Coquelin will have to learn to reign in his aggression when on a yellow card, here he was substituted when it seemed it was only a matter of time before Arsenal would be a man light. Arsene Wenger was delighted to have got a first win of the new campaign.

He said. ” We have shown our strong response and we have shown different aspects in our game that are vital in the Premier League. We had a good, fluent game in the first half and when they came back to 1-1 it was a mental test to see how we could respond. We managed to find a second goal and after that in the second half of the game we just had to dig in, fight, and we did it as well. I’m pleased because we have shown many different aspects that will be very important in the season.”

Wenger recalled Hector Bellerin who came in for Mathieu Debuchy. Theo Walcott was dropped to the bench with Olivier Giroud starting in attack. The early Arsenal pressure suggested a Gunners cricket score, such was the manner of their early domination.

As Palace attacked, Coquelin’s block set off a quick counter attack. Cazorla fed Özil on the left. The German released the rapidly advancing Sanchez whose drag back beat his marker but he still managed to block. The Chile striker tried again and with keeper Alex McCarthy on the ground, James McArthur got back to clear off the Palace line.

As the home side tired to advance, Ward was caught in possession by Sanchez who raced away but saw his shot blocked to Giroud’s obvious frustration. With their next attack of note, the Gunners took the lead.

Santi Cazorla fed Sanchez who in turn found Ozil ahead on the left. The German hit over a cross which seemed behind Giroud, but the France striker managed to balance himself to produce an acrobatic volley beyond McCarthy for his 59th goal in 137 games in Arsenal colours

More Arsenal pressure as Wilfried Zaha’s misplaced back pass was seized on by Sanchez. He struck low and hard, the shot was too hot for McCarthy to handle, but luckily for Palace, there was no other Arsenal player alert enough to capitalise on the spilled ball.

The noise continued inside Selhurst Park, and it would drive the home side on to level. Yannick Bolassie and MacCarthur set up Ward to strike a low shot beyond Cech. Laurent Koscielny turned his back on the shot in a natural reaction, but that can’t have helped his side or Cech’s vision in particular. Still you felt Arsenal would recover, and especially with Özil having a good offensive game.

Özil’s cross was smartly side struck by the boot of Aaron Ramsey, in but McCarthy palmed the ball away. Palace responded when Zaha’s cross picked out Conor Wickham to volley onto the post, with Cech rooted to the spot.

It was wonderful end to end stuff, and Arsenal retook the lead ten minutes after the break. Ramsey fed Bellerin on right. His cross was headed across by Sanchez as he out jumped Ward to see his header low down and in off Delaney’s
attempted clearance going past his own keeper.

Arsenal stuck to more defensive note of caution when needed as Palace went in search of another leveller. Arsenal should have grabbed a third goal however when substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain muscled his way to shoot late on but McCarthy made the late save as the score remained at 2-1 to the Gunners.

Still a few weeks off his optimism fitness, Wenger was full of praise for Sanchez.

” He brings a drive forward. He brings the pressure on the opponent. He brings goal chances. When it was 1-1 it is no coincidence that he found the header over Ward [and] maybe it’s a typical Alexis goal. More desire than fitness, he is still a bit short fitness-wise but he is a fighter.”

Wenger will look to those qualities next up when Liverpool come calling at the Emirates stadium in next Monday’s evening kick off.