Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace: Bukayo Saka scores twice as Gunners extend lead to eight points over Man City
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
How Arsenal swept past Crystal Palace
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.
- Gabriel Jesus started on the bench with William Saliba not in the Arsenal squad due to a back complaint. Rob Holding made his first Premier League start since the final day of last season. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Eddie Nketiah were also not in the matchday squad.
- Crystal Palace’s interim manager Paddy McCarthy made two changes from the side that were beaten 1-0 by Brighton in Patrick Vieira’s final game. Nathaniel Clyne dropped to the bench, replaced by Joel Ward, and Luka Milivojevic started instead of Albert Sambi Lokonga, who was ineligible to face his parent club.
- Nineteen-year-old goalkeeper Joe Whitworth retained his place in goal, only his second Premier League start in the continued absence of Vicente Guaita.
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 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.
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