Arsenal moved above fierce rivals Tottenham into third place after securing a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium on New Year’s Day.
- Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 0
- Giroud flick gives hosts early lead
- Palace struggle to create in first half
- Iwobi extends advantage with header
- Both keepers kept busy in second half
Olivier Giroud scored for the second game in succession, but his goal against the Eagles was sublime as he opened the scoring with an audacious flick from behind his head.
The visitors briefly threatened to get back into the contest in wet and windy conditions in the capital, but Alex Iwobi’s header just before the hour mark took the wind out of their sails as Arsene Wenger’s side made it back-to-back wins in the league.
The hosts controlled large spells of the first half but lacked a cutting edge for the most part.
They should have taken the lead after just six minutes when Granit Xhaka played a delightful ball over the top for Nacho Monreal, whose first-time delivery was missed in front of goal by Giroud and Lucas Perez, while Mohamed Elneny saw his shot deflected over from Iwobi’s pass on the follow-up.
Alexis Sanchez hit a shot from range that drifted wide of the right post on 12 minutes but he then set up Giroud for an amazing opener five minutes later which drew comparisons with Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s wonder goal on Boxing Day.
The Chilean’s cross from the left was slightly behind Giroud, who flicked the ball from behind his back over Wayne Hennessey and in off the crossbar after the Gunners broke upfield from their own box.
Elneny failed to test Hennessey from just outside the area in the 26th minute after being teed up by Iwobi, while the visitors’ only chance of the first half saw Yohan Cabaye test Petr Cech with a strike from inside the box 11 minutes later.
The half finished with Hennessey keeping out Sanchez’s effort from range, while the forward was denied by the keeper’s boot at close range soon afterwards as Palace failed to clear their lines, and he then made a comfortable save to keep out Perez from distance on the right.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 1, 2017
Sam Allardyce’s men almost hit back two minutes after the restart when Andros Townsend sent in a good cross from the right, but Christian Benteke steered his header wide from six yards out.
The Gunners were soon back in their stride, however, and doubled their advantage on 56 minutes following a sustained spell of pressure, with Iwobi sending a looping header over Hennessey and two defenders into the net.
Palace looked to respond and went close on three occasions in quick succession, as Cech saved Benteke’s header and parried away Cabaye’s first-time volley before denying Townsend from inside the area on the left.
The south Londoners were threatening again four minutes later as Townsend’s wicked cross from the right was turned behind by Cech, before Wilfried Zaha blazed over from 19 yards out.
Xhaka tried his luck from distance in the 70th minute after Jordan Mutch had lost possession 30 yards out from Hennessey’s throw-out, but his shot was deflected well wide.
Both teams continued to attack in the closing stages, but there weren’t any real clear-cut chances other than Aaron Ramsey firing just wide of the right post from 17 yards out two minutes from time.