Sanchez hits double as Arsenal win at Crystal Palace
Gunners boss Wenger faces questions over stars' contracts after watching his side hold on for all three points at Selhurst Park
28 December, 2017 — By Paul Cowling
CRYSTAL PALACE 2 (Townsend 49, Tomkins 89)
ARSENAL 3 (Mustafi 25 , Sanchez 62, 66)
IT was a night for hot Bovril as south London shivered in one-degree cold. But Arsenal fans were warmed by a hard-working Gunners performance that saw off Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Two goals from Alexis Sanchez proved decisive, after Palace had cancelled out Shkodran Mustafi’s first-half opener. Palace pulled it back to 3-2 with a minute to go, but it was too little, too late.
This was Arsenal’s first London derby away win in six attempts in 2017, and the match was also famously Arsene Wenger’s 810th in the Premier League – equalling the record of Sir Alex Ferguson.
After the match, Wenger talked about win number 468.
“Overall it was a positive performance,” he said. “We controlled the game, but at 1-0 at half-time, it should have been more.”
Wenger made three changes from the Christmas cracker draw with Liverpool, with Alex Iwobi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles dropping to the bench, and Nacho Monreal missing out through injury.
That meant starts for Calum Chambers and Sead Kolasinac, while German international Mustafi returned to the first team after being out with a thigh problem since early October.
And it was Mustafi who swept the Gunnners into a 25th-minute lead after Alexandre Lacazette was allowed time to fire in from the right-hand corner of the penalty area. His shot was palmed away by Palace keeper Julian Speroni, but the ball fell invitingly to Mustafi, who had the easiest of tasks.
On 30 minutes, Speroni made a smart save to keep out Mesut Ozil’s goal-bound effort as Arsenal, enjoying near 75 per cent possession, threatened to run riot.
With Jack Wilshere pulling the strings in midfield, the first half showing, certainly, was a far more forceful Arsenal performance than the one which saw the Gunners meekly surrender in the 3-0 defeat at Selhurst last season.
But Palace hadn’t been beaten since losing to Spurs back in November, and they equalised on 49 minutes thanks to former Tottenham favourite, Andros Townsend. Left unmarked, he latched onto a cross from Wilfried Zaha to leave Petr Cech flat-footed.
Arsenal deservedly regained the lead in the 62nd minute when Lacazette teed up Alexis Sanchez, whose thumping shot went under the legs of James Tomkins, and past Speroni, who really should have saved it.
In the 66th minute, Sanchez scored his second to fire the Gunners into a 3-1 lead. And what a goal it was. The graceful Wilshere threaded a pin-point pass to the Chilean and, with one touch, Sanchez gave Speroni no chance.
“Super Jack,” chimed the Arsenal thousands in the Arthur Watt stand as their team regained complete control of a match that for a brief period threatened to get away from them.
With a minute to go of normal time, Tomkins headed in a Townsend corner to set up a tight finish, but Arsenal held the home side off and returned north of the river with all three points.
“We showed character at 3-2, as it became a bit nervy,” said Wenger.
When asked about Wilshere’s performance, he said the England talent “was back to his competitive best”.
But Wenger became positively riled when he was persistently questioned about Wilshere’s contract situation, and that of Sanchez.
“I am not a specialist in psychology,” he said. “With Jack’s contract talks, nothing is delayed.”
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Kelly (Fosu-Mensah, 80), Dann, Tomkins, Schlupp, Milivojevic, Cabaye, Loftus-Cheek (Sako, 70); Townsend, Zaha, Benteke.
Subs not used: Hennessey, van Aanholt, McArthur, Puncheon, Riedewald.
Arsenal: Cech, Chambers, Mustafi, Koscielny, Bellerin, Xhaka (Maitland-Niles, 87), Wilshere, Kolasinac, Ozil, Sanchez, Lacazette (Coquelin, 75).
Subs not used: Ospina, Holding, Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck