Arsenal 1-1 Palace
Crystal Palace made it four games unbeaten as a late Yannick Bolasie strike earned a point at the Emirates. Arsenal dominated for large periods, but Alan Pardew’s men contained the hosts well before late changes to personnel reaped rewards.
Alexis Sanchez scored on the stroke of half time, meaning that Palace had conceded in three consecutive stoppage time periods at the home of the Gunners, as Danny Welbeck capitalised on poor defending from Scott Dann and Mile Jedinak and found the Chilean in the penalty area.
Wayne Hennessey had already denied Mesut Ozil and went on to keep out Welbeck in the second half before Pardew introduced Emmanuel Adebayor and Wilfried Zaha into the fray. With presence of the Togo international and the speed an trickery of the English winger, the Eagles finally started to carry a threat in the final third, and with 9 minutes remaining they found an equaliser.
Adebayor picked up the ball just inside his own half and marauding down the left flank, easily keeping the chasing Arsenal defender, Gabriel, at bay. Eventually Bolasie caught up with his team mate, received the ball and cut inside. His effort from range went low through a crowd of players and crept into the bottom corner, undoubtedly leaving Petr Cech disappointed with his efforts to keep it out.
Arsene Wenger’s men tried to move up through the gears but, buoyed by the leveller, the visitors pressed well and forced errors and will consider themselves unlucky not to have grabbed a winner on the break late on.
Hats off to Pardew
“It was a game that we had a tactical strategy to, kind of, subdue them, to try and get them to stay in third gear” said Pardew after the game. Meanwhile, outside the stadium Arsenal fans were bemoaning on the Arsenal Fan TV Soap Opera that they are too predictable. Pardew’s game plan was to play on this predictability and then take advantage of it late with an injection of pace from the subs bench – and it worked perfectly.
“The subs were going to be significant today. I said that to them before the game, and if proved to be the difference. We got a goal, a great goal, an important goal because Bolasie needed that goal.”
Pardew exude the haughtiness of a man that had nailed his game plan after the match - but this game plan would not have been possible a month ago. The defence were off form, the goalkeeper was appalling and relying on the defence not making errors and the goalkeeper making saves, would not have been possible. With their new-found confidence, we could invite Arsenal on, lure them in, defend them sufficiently and hit them where we are strong; on the break and with pace.
Whether or not Pardew would have still gone with the same game plan if the defence and the goalkeeper were still in a rut, is a question for another day.
Emmanuel Adebayor in the Hole
He was always going to be up for this game. All day long, including when they scored, the most noise that the home fans made was when booing Adebayor. When he warmed up as a sub, “boo”. When he stripped off to come on, “boo”. Whenever he touched the ball, “boo”. If they had spent as much time actually supporting their team as they did berating their former player, their players might have actually found the fourth and fifth gears that Pardew aimed to keep them out of.
I am not entirely sure what they though the booing would achieve. Adebayor needs little encouragement when playing Arsenal – the 2 goals and 2 assists in the four times that he has returned to the Emirates tells us this – but to get on his back was only ever going to encourage him. Arsenal fans like to moan at Wenger, but they should take a long hard look at themselves as they managed to encourage a match winning performance out of the dreadlocked beast.
Adebayor came on, slotted into the hole and hunted for the ball. He refused to let Arsenal dominate possession and dragged us kicking and screaming into the final third of the pitch. His run for the goal was but a fraction of what he did for the team and, hopefully, he will be able to continue to display this for, what are likely to be, his final five (hopefully six) games for the Club.
Joel Ward – 100 Premier League Matches
Congratulations to Joel Ward on reaching 100 Premier League appearances, becoming the first ever Palace player to achieve this feat. Yesterday was one of his better appearances of late and, like his counterpart Souare, is showing some improved form at the business end of the season.
Man of the Match: Pape Souare
Damien Delaney, Yohan Cabaye and Emmanuel Adebayor are all strong contenders for the accolade. Delaney was stalwart at the back, Cabaye never missed a pass and made more tackles than anybody else on the pitch and Adebayor quite simply changed the game in our favour.
Souare, however, was a step above for me. Often I give this award based on how the player performs in relation to my expectations of them. My expectations of Souare are, admittedly, low, but he would have been receiving the award even if they were higher. His pace and endeavour to get forward was vital in keeping Arsenal at bay. By giving his opposite full back something to think about defensively, it often meant that Arsenal could not threat down his flank and forced the hosts more central, where we were equipped to deal with the threat.
It is not lost on me that he had Joe Ledley in front of him in the first half and then Bolasie in the second. These two are more than adept defensively and this means that Souare was not often stretched in a positional sense, which is when he starts to look weak. But I am not going to let that dampen my enthusiasm at the improved form that he has shown in recent weeks.
Up Next: Manchester United
I am glad that we have this game as it doesn’t give me an entire weeks to stew over the Semi Final. Which also means that the players are not in a position to stew about it for that time. Like at Arsenal, it is about time that we got something against United. What better time to start than now? Although I believe that it has 0-0 written all over it.
Come on you Palace!
On this Day in the Past
Stern John scored a vital leveller as Palace bid to avoid relegation, and oblivion, back in 2010. That and more here.