Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace : Chamberlain sends Gunners top
It was an all-round gratifying afternoon for Arsenal, as the Gunners moved above Manchester City for a day or two thanks to a brace from the fit-again Alex Oxlade Chamberlain as Arsenal continued their march for the title and reiterated their title credentials in typical champions fashion.
The England international, who had been unavailable since the opening day due to a cruciate ligament injury in his left knee, excelled after what had been a difficult few months for him.
Arsenal's No.15 broke the deadlock early in the second period with a composed finish and signed off a brilliant Arsenal attacking move with a well-taken goal.
It was a game in which the Gunners were expected to and had to secure victory in, and with Manchester City and Chelsea in action on Monday night, the opportunity was there for Wenger's side to leapfrog City for at least 24 hours, but were confronted by a sturdy Palace side.
It was a Palace display with Tony Pulis written all over it as they frustrated their London rivals during the first half. The Eagles denied Arsenal any room for creative manoeuvre, pressing tirelessly and the home side struggled to create any fluency in their play courtesy of Palace's frequent cynical challenges.
But Arsenal did have chances to break the Palace resistance, with Speroni denying Nacho Monreal. Palace's longest ever serving player was again called into action, as Ozil's free-kick had eluded everyone. It seems as if Wayne Hennessey's arrival on Deadline Day has somewhat given the Argentine veteran an edge and a sense of competition, dispelling the prospect of complacency.
As a sense of anxiety and frustration spread across the Emirates due to a combination of Palace's stout defensive yield and Speroni's goalkeeping, "The Ox" stepped up to give Arsenal some much-needed breathing space.
Chamberlain's return is timely for Arsenal, as their midfield succumbs to injuries while monumental games loom on the horizon.It comes at a time when Wenger's deadline-day loan acquisition of Kim Kallstrom from Spartak Moscow ruled out until early March. The Sweden midfielder informed the club of a back problem, sustained playing volley ball during the Russian winter break, but Wenger had decided to go ahead with the move.
And Palace's perceived time-wasting and play-thwarting challenges were rapidly forgotten three minutes after the restart, and it was the sheer quality of the goal which made the Arsenal support match the fantastic travelling Palace fans in terms of atmosphere.
It is his work-rate, skill and selflessness which has endeared the Spaniard to the Gunners faithful in a short time span. Santi Cazorla's brilliant vision to pick out Chamberlain after a few silky step overs epitomized the type of season he was having. And Chamberlain finished well, lobbing the on-rushing Speroni.
Jerome wasted an amazing chance to equalise for the Eagles as his diving header was straight at Sczcesny. Anywhere else and it's 1-1.
The young Englishman sealed the three points for the home side and punished Palace for Jerome's prolificacy as he finished off a slick, one-touch Arsenal move with a low drilled effort, the pace on the strike substantial to force it past the diving Speroni. As the truly wonderful Palace fans sang on, knowing their season will not be defined by games against the so-called "big boys", their team's belief ebbed out as the Gunners eventually cruised to the final-whistle. Tougher examinations await for Wenger's men, but it is still a satisfying victory for the men in red.
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