Palace 1-2 Arsenal: Damien Delaney own goal gives Gunners first points
By Stephen Turner
Last Updated: 17/08/15 9:31am
Arsenal got off the mark for the season as Damien Delaney's second-half own goal gave them a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace.
The Irishman shinned an Alexis Sanchez header into his own net (55) after Olivier Giroud (16) and Joel Ward (28) had exchanged excellent first-half goals, ensuring an immediate Arsenal response to their opening-day shocker against West Ham.
Palace are entitled to think it might have been different but for Lee Mason's lenient treatment of Francis Coquelin's persistent misdemeanours, but there was enough early swagger and defensive character about the visitors to encourage belief last week's performance was a false start and no more.
And Arsene Wenger will have noted that the improvement was in no small part down to his decision to restore Santi Cazorla to the central role in which he excelled in the second half of last season.
The Spaniard's place on the left was taken by Sanchez, whose extended spell on the sidelines lasted all of 67 minutes last week before the SOS went out and who was deemed fit to start at Selhurst Park.
The Chilean was his usual one-man wrecking ball, but there was a rustiness about his touch early on as he took an age over a one-on-one chance and allowed Palace's defensive cover to get back and block.
Arsenal's sense of purpose was clear and they were rewarded when Giroud, who spoke confidently in the week about his ability to lead the line, made good on his words with a lovely hooked volley from Mesut Ozil's drilled centre.
The goal, and a subsequent Sanchez chance which Alex McCarthy saved one-handed, came about from Palace's sloppiness in possession, and Ward was the chief culprit.
But the full-back atoned with the kind of equaliser that belied his previous tally of a single Palace goal, fizzing a 20-yard shot past Petr Cech from James McArthur's lay-off.
Palace were emboldened and enjoyed their best spell either side of half-time: Coquelin went in the book for bringing an unceremonious end to a Yannick Bolasie burst, and Alan Pardew plainly felt the Frenchman was skating on thin ice when Wilfried Zaha found himself on the wrong end of a buffeting just before the break.
Coquelin survived, at least until he was hooked for the good of himself and the team following another thud through the back of McArthur, and by the time he was replaced Arsenal were back in front.
Connor Wickham had missed the chance to mark his home debut with a goal, prodding against the post, and Palace paid for it when Sanchez met a stood-up Hector Bellerin cross with a firm header that Delaney could not keep out.
The home side tested Arsenal's mettle with countless crosses, but a fourth goal was always likelier at the Palace end as Aaron Ramsey, the outstanding Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all missed chances to settle the argument.
Palace: McCarthy (7) Ward (6) Dann (7) Delaney (6) Soare (7) McArthur (7) Cabaye (6) Zaha (6) Puncheon (7) Bolasie (5) Wickham (6).
Used subs: Mutch (6) Lee (5) Bamford (5)
Arsenal: Cech (6) Bellerin (6) Mertesacker (7) Koscielny (7) Monreal (7) Coquelin (6) Cazorla (8) Ramsey (7) Ozil (7) Sanchez (7) Giroud (7)
Used subs: Chamberlain (6) Arteta (6) Gibbs (n/a)
Man of the match: Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)