Arsenal vs Crystal Palace. Premier League.
Report and free match highlights as Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka score first-half goals; Granit Xhaka grabs third in second half before Jeffrey Schlupp nets Palace's first goal in five matches; Saka bags fourth as Arsenal move eight points clear; Palace three points above drop zone
Monday 20 March 2023 06:07, UK
Arsenal moved eight points clear at the top of the Premier League with a comfortable 4-1 victory over managerless Crystal Palace.
With Manchester City in FA Cup action on Saturday, the Gunners capitalised on the chance to extend their lead against a Palace side led by interim boss Paddy McCarthy after Patrick Vieira was sacked on Friday.
Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka both scored first-half goals but only after the visitors had come within a whisker of leading when Wilfried Zaha's early effort came back off a post.
Granit Xhaka added a third shortly after the break to wrap up the points, but Palace, winless in their last 13 matches across all competitions, scored their first goal in five games when Jeffrey Schlupp turned in from close range at a corner.
Saka, though, netted his second and Arsenal's fourth to pile the misery on Palace, who sit three points above the relegation zone.
Arsenal: Ramsdale (6); White (7), Holding (7), Gabriel (7), Zinchenko (7); Partey (7), Xhaka (8); Saka (9), Odegaard (8), Martinelli (8); Trossard (7).
Subs: Jesus (6), Tierney (7), Smith Rowe (n/a), Jorginho (n/a), Kiwior (n/a).
Crystal Palace: Whitworth (5); Ward (5), Tomkins (5), Guehi (5), Mitchell (5); Milivojevic (6), Doucoure (6), Schlupp (7); Olise (6), Edouard (6), Zaha (7).
Subs: Ayew (6), Hughes (6), Eze (n/a), Ahamada (n/a).
Player of the Match: Bukayo Saka
Crystal Palace were forced into a late change with Joachim Andersen injured in the warm-up and replaced by James Tomkins, but they started fast and nearly led when Zaha was played in behind and sent a low shot off the left post. Odsonne Edouard was then released beyond the Arsenal defence although he was flagged offside after Aaron Ramsdale had saved when one-on-one.
It took Arsenal 18 minutes to have their first shot as teenager Joe Whitworth pushed away Martin Odegaard's effort from the edge of the area.
The hosts were ramping up the pressure down Palace's left and eventually, Saka crossed for Martinelli, who shifted the ball onto his left foot, gaining a yard on Joel Ward, before firing across Whitworth and into the bottom right corner for his sixth goal in as many Premier League matches.
From then on Arsenal were in control. Odegaard rolled a shot wide of the right post before Saka added the second. Ben White slipped him in, with the winger drifting behind Mitchell inside the area before slotting into the corner.
Zaha stung the palms of Ramsdale as Palace threatened to mount a comeback early in the second half but soon Xhaka bundled home from close range to seal the points inside 55 minutes.
Schlupp gave the travelling support something to celebrate when he turned in from close range at a corner and things might have been made interesting had Zaha not rolled the ball inches wide from an angle with over 15 minutes to play.
Saka made sure there would be no late drama, bending home from substitute Kieran Tierney's pull-back to cap a fine afternoon.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta: "I'm really pleased with the performance, the determination, the energy we showed again. The way we controlled the game and overall really good. It's tough always after Thursday night, playing 120 minutes, they reacted brilliantly. The crowd was at it again, I'm really happy.
"We conceded a goal on a set play and it was poor the way we did it but we can take a lot of positives. There are things we have to do better, especially in the second half when we had the game totally under control to be even more dominant and try to score more goals. Be a bit more respectful with the simple things.
"Some great goals, some great combinations, we were really dominant and efficient in finding openings against a really compact and difficult low block."
On Takehiro Tomiyasu's injury sustained in midweek: "We don't know [if he will play again this season]. The doctor is going to assess him. It's not looking good, that's for sure. He's not someone who likes to exaggerate things so we know it is serious. We hope that it's going to be better news for William (Saliba).
"We had to respond. We had Gabriel Jesus out for four months, Emile (Smith Rowe) for four-and-a-half months. Kieran (Tierney), Thomas (Partey), Alex Zinchenko, Eddie Nketiah out. Now Tomiyasu and Saliba. You have to overcome those situations. We've done it. Rob (Holding) was brilliant today. Everybody has to give another edge to be at the same level.
"There were moments when we've had 14, 15 outfield players but we have coped because everyone is willing to play even when they have niggles and issues, they're willing to put their bodies on the line. This is what we need. To be at the top you really need to be on the edge at all times and these players are ready to do that."
Crystal Palace interim manager Paddy McCarthy on build-up after Patrick Vieira's sacking: "It's been hectic. But we've tried to shield the players from that as much as possible. The start of the game was really encouraging and we had a chance to go ahead. We knew we had to be on our game today to stop a very good Arsenal side. Had we taken one of those earlier chances, it might have been a different outcome today.
"I've not had any time to think about anything other than preparing the team for [Sunday's] game. My only focus has been on this. There hasn't been any conversations had. I'm interested in doing whatever the football club want me to do. I've been here for 15 years. Whatever this club needs me to do at this moment in time, I'll do it."
How can Palace turn form around? "Belief. They've got so much quality in there and they've just got to believe in themselves. The chances we created today was a positive aspect of our game today. With the defending, Arsenal are always going to create chances. The fourth goal was disappointing as we were in the game at 3-1. It's a completely different story but 4-1 makes it look a bit worse than it actually was.
"We've proven today we can create chances against one of the defences in the division so they'll take positives from that. Joachim (Andersen) has a calf injury. He felt a twinge in his calf just before kick-off. When it rains it pours.
"When you're in this predicament, you need players who have gone through the mill. Tomks [James Tomkins] had 15 minutes warming up on the side to start and I thought he did brilliantly given the circumstances. We will need the experience to help us. Players who have gone through experiences like this are going to play a big role in the coming weeks."
|Goals||Martinelli, Saka (2), Xhaka | Schlupp|
|Assists||Saka, White, Trossard, Tierney|
|Bonus points||Saka (3pts), Xhaka (2pts), Schlupp (1pt)|
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Arsenal continue their title quest when they host relegation-threatened Leeds on Saturday April 1 at 3pm. They then head to Liverpool on Sunday April 9, live on Sky Sports.
When Crystal Palace return after the March international break, their next six fixtures are against teams below them in the table. The last time the Eagles played a team below them in the league was against Bournemouth on New Year's Eve in 2022, which was Vieira's last win in charge.
Palace face relegation rivals Leicester at home on Saturday April 1 at 3pm before heading to Leeds on Sunday April 9. More big games follow at Southampton and then at home to Everton.