Sunday, 2 February 2014

Arsenal vs Crystal Palace - LIVE Commentary:

Interesting clash: Arsenal host Palace at The Emirates, in the afternoon EPL match on Sunday

Hello again everyone, and welcome to my latest blog post where I have a LIVE Commentary of the final match of the weekend, as 2nd placed Arsenal look to move back to the top of the EPL by the end of play today, up against a rejuvenated Crystal Palace who have made some strong signings in the transfer window, including a few bargain deals on deadline day on Friday night. 

Here are the team line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Podolski and Giroud.

Subs: Fabianski, Rosicky, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Bendtner, Gnabry and Zelalem. 

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Parr, Bolasie, Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Puncheon, Chamakh and Jerome. 

Subs: Hennessey, Mariappa, McCarthy, Gayle, Wilbraham, Guedioura and Bannan. 

Strong line-ups for both sides as neither is willing to back down in this London derby, Arsenal won 2-0 in the last fixture between these two. 

FACT: Crystal Palace striker Marouane Chamakh faces his old club Arsenal today, after a disappointing spell at The Gunners. 

Chamakh simply was not good enough at Arsenal, wasting chances constantly in his 3-year spell.

Good as new: However, he has improved at Palace, with 4 goals so far this season

16:00 - The referee blows his whistle to signal the start of the match at The Emirates, with both sets of players ready to kick-off. 

5: Arsenal are patiently waiting for space, creating good build-up play looking for areas to feed Giroud towards goal. 

8: Good play from The Gunners. Ozil whips a delicate chipped through ball pass into Nacho Monreal on the flank, who runs towards goal as Speroni races off his line - but Monreal is denied with a good piece of goalkeeping by the Palace goalkeeper who does well to spread himself and close down the narrow angle to score.

Denied: Monreal is denied by a good block from Speroni at the near post early on. 
9: Former Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh jogs off the pitch to recieve treatment for a cut lip which has drawn blood. 

13: Chamakh does well to provide a scare for the Arsenal defenders, racing past Mertesacker to try and shoot, but Szczesny tracks his run and gets to the ball first. 

18: The referee warns Palace defensive midfielder Jedinak about his future conduct after a naughty foul on Oxlade-Chamberlain near the centre circle. 

20: Arsenal looking dangerous when they have the ball at their feet, but Palace are staying solid at the back and tackling well with pressure.

22: Cazorla tries to switch the play onto the flank for Giroud on the counter attack, but the Frenchman is not quick enough for the long ball which was powerfully hit towards his path. Ironic cheers from the visitors.

23: Fantastic tackle by Mertesacker to deny young Palace winger Yannick Bolasie from going on the counter attack towards the wing, with a clean challenge before clearing the danger. 

24: Arsenal get a corner after almost trying to recreate the wonder goal scored at The Emirates against Norwich earlier on in the season, with Cazorla's resulting strike deflected out for a set-piece.

25: The resulting corner comes of nothing, but the hosts continue the pressure on Palace. All they need now is a consistent final ball to Giroud, Chamberlain or Cazorla for example, to test Speroni.

Good defending from Sagna as he tracks back on the flank to make two tackles in quick succession to deny Bolasie and then Jedinak from winning the ball in a relatively dangerous area near the centre-circle. 

27: The cameras take a quick break from the action to look at German-born talent Gedion Zelalem, who turned 17 last week and is currently on the bench for Arsenal as one of their youngest ever senior players. He has a lot of potential to be fulfilled...

30: 1st half possession - 
Arsenal have 71%
Palace have just 29%
Only 2 shots so far in the match, both coming from Arsenal, with 1 being on target. 

31: Palace starting to take the game to The Gunners, pressing a higher line with the midfielders pushing up on the counter attack even though Arsenal are still pressing for the opener. 

33: Arsenal have a free-kick from 35 yards out after Giroud is blatantly held back by defender Delaney. 

Close! Arsenal have a corner after a top-class delivery from Ozil is headed well by French defender Laurent Koscielny, who is denied by a good acrobatic save from Speroni.

34: The resulting corner is cleared away, but Arsenal keep the pressure on, which has been the case ever since the start of the match.

35: Arteta feeds Sagna near the flank towards goal with an inviting pass, as the French right-back runs at full speed in the direction of the ball and collides feet first into Speroni. 
Sagna looks worse off though, and the physio are brought out onto the pitch to treat him. 

37: Sagna is back on his feet and limps off the pitch with the physio after an apologetic handshake with Speroni. Does not look too bad. 

38: Palace do not take advantage of their first corner of the game, after some effective pressure on Mertesacker and Szczesny at the back but the big German (Mertesacker) heads the ball clear and Arsenal can continue pressurizing.

39: Good play by Lukas Podolski to beat two Palace defenders by shrugging off a challenge before passing to Oxlade-Chamberlain who flicks the ball well past him but a Palace sweeper clears.  

41: Chamakh is booked after a blatant push and shove on Ozil as the German playmaker had the ball at his feet. 

Booked: Chamakh is booked against his former side after this challenge on Ozil in the first-half
43: Szczesny comfortably holds the ball in his arms as winger Jason Puncheon whips a ball into the box near Jerome who is lurking in behind the Arsenal defence, no real danger though.

44: Podolski is fouled with a late clash on his left ankle, Arsenal free-kick.

45: The fourth official signals for 2 minutes of stoppage time to be added on at the end of the first-half of action at The Emirates, with the score still goal-less. 

Koscielny has an audacious strike well wide of the goal. 

45+1: Speroni with a big goal-kick, but Arsenal have another free-kick with yet another late challenge by Jedinak on Giroud, who is proving hard to handle. 

45+2: The referee blows his whistle to end the half's action, with Arsenal feeling slightly disappointed that they are not currently in the lead yet Palace will be glad with their dogged performance at the back. 

They have defended well, but have goalkeeper Julian Speroni to thank for the current scoreline.

17:03 - The referee blows his whistle to start the second-half of action at The Emirates, with the scoreline still goal-less. An interesting 45 minutes to play, with both sides wanting a win. 

47: GOAL! Arsenal are ahead after a lovely chip into the box by Cazorla through to Oxlade-Chamberlain, who chips the ball over Speroni into the corner of the net for his first league goal of the season, and his first senior goal for over a year after some disappointing injuries of late. 

Cheeky dink: Chamberlain breaks the deadlock just after half-time with a chip over Speroni. 
Cool and confident: Young Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates his first league goal of the season.
1-0 to The Gunners, an instant reaction at the start of the second half.

48: Cameras show Palace manager Tony Pulis, and he does not look happy whatsoever. The home fans are now in full song as their team are a goal to the good, with the midfield able to control the ball slightly more comfortably now.

49: Mertesacker with a commanding intereception to deny striker Cameron Jerome from going on the counter attack in a dangerous position.

50: The face of this game has now changed, Palace now need to create more chances and The Gunners are trying their best to score again to relieve some more pressure. 

Close! Puncheon with an inviting cross into the box, deflected off Sagna's boot into the ball of Bolasie who heads forward to Jerome, with the striker's power header well stopped by Szczesny and out for a corner.

 Superb stop by the Polish goalkeeper. 

51: The resulting corner is cleared away for another, which is cleared away out of danger. 

52: Arsenal have a corner, after Podolski is released down the flank before trying to weave his way past a Palace defender who blocks the ball out for a set-piece. 

53: Good build-up play after the corner is initially cleared away, as Cazorla and Arteta combine to feed Podolski towards the near post and the German forward strikes the ball powerfully towards Speroni's goal but his shot fires into the side netting. 

Palace are lucky to not be 2-0 down now, Arsenal looking fired up for more goals. 

55: Crystal Palace SUB:
Cameron Jerome OFF
Barry Bannan ON

Jerome has not had a particularly effective match so far today, and is being replaced for some depth in midfield with Bannan replacing him as Chamakh will play as the lone striker. 
Jerome will be frustrated that he did not score the header at the far post, denied by a good stop from Szczesny. 

59: Oxlade-Chamberlain has a cheeky strike from 25 yards out wide of the goal after an Arsenal corner is initially cleared but falls into the feet of the England forward. 

60: Palace defender Ward is down after a nasty-looking challenge by Podolski near the touchline, with manager Tony Pulis angry at the tackle even though the German looked to play the ball and clashed with the back of the defender's heels. 

Ward gets back up to his feet and dusts himself down soon afterwards though, looking in some pain. 

63: Palace try to keep the pressure on Arsenal, but their attempted effort goes wide and Szczesny smashes clear with a powerful goal-kick. 
The travelling supporters are still singing as loudly as ever, despite their team trailing away from home. 

65: Nice passing spell from the hosts, starting from the back as Chamberlain does well to win the ball back after his attempted pass to Monreal is cut out - with a quick exchange of passes and movement between Monreal, Ozil, Cazorla and Arteta before Podolski is fouled on the edge of the box with a clumsy challenge from defender Danny Gabbidon. 
The referee says play on though... 

67: A dangerous looking foul by defender Damien Delaney on Cazorla near the centre-circle, with the referee brandishing the second yellow card of the match much to the frustration of the Arsenal supporters and Delaney who felt he won the ball. 

Replays show that Delaney got a toe onto a part of the ball, but it was the follow-through which was why he was given a yellow card, a reckless after challenge.

68: Palace go on the counter attack, before Bannan has a shot which flies over the bar to cheers from the Arsenal supporters. 

71: Arsenal SUB:
Lukas Podolski OFF
Tomas Rosicky ON

A case of fresh legs for The Gunners, with Podolski looking slightly jaded and Rosicky raring to play in the centre of midfield, the creative hub of the team alongside Ozil and Cazorla as they look to double their lead and see out the match. 

72: GOAL! Arsenal make it 2-0 as Oxlade-Chamberlain scores his second of the game after some good build-up play between him and Rosicky culminating in a low powerful drive past Speroni into the bottom corner of the net. 

Low drive: Oxlade-Chamberlain doubles Arsenal's lead with just under 20 minutes to play

Top class: Chamberlain celebrates his completing his brace against Palace to seal the win. 
The Gunners have a slightly more comfortable 2-goal cushion, and Palace need to score soon if they want to get anything out of the game with just over 15 minutes plus stoppage time to play. 

78: Arsenal looking comfortable on the ball with good exchanges in play between Monreal, Arteta and Cazorla. 

80: Arsenal look for the killer goal, with Ozil having a deflected effort comfortably held by Speroni from 20 yards out. 10 minutes left to play.

82: Crystal Palace SUB:
Marouane Chamakh OFF
Dwight Gayle ON

Warm applause for Chamakh from the home fans, acknowledging that their former striker has played relatively well today but his touch has not been very good otherwise he probably would have tested the defence more...

Pacy forward Gayle who started his career at Arsenal gets 10 minutes against his former club. 

83: Arsenal are bringing on two changes -
Mesut Ozil OFF
Olivier Giroud OFF
Kieran Gibbs ON
Nicklas Bendtner ON

Another case of fresh legs, Gibbs will slot in at the back while Bendtner replaces Giroud who has put in a shift despite not having many opportunities with the ball at his feet in a dangerous position.
Ozil has played well with good ball control and almost came close to scoring a goal of his own at times during the match. 

85: Crystal Palace have a free-kick near the edge of the box as Mertesacker clearly brings down Bolasie and is given a yellow card - while Spanish defensive-midfielder Arteta is shown to be limping with a knock.. 

86: Confusion at the free-kick, with two attempted efforts being blocked by the wall and the Arsenal defenders as The Gunners clear their lines.

87: Mertesacker does well to read the impending danger from Bolasie near the touchline on the flank, and performs a well-timed sliding tackle to deny the fast winger from getting past him.

89: The fourth official is slowly walking towards the touchline with the electronic board in hand, ready to show how many minutes of stoppage time is to be played. 

90: Chamberlain is down for around 10 seconds after an accidental clash with Rosicky (his own team-mate) of heads, and is given physio treatment off the pitch to make sure that he is okay. 

The fourth official has signalled for 3 minutes of stoppage time to be played, with a Palace corner coming of nothing by an Arsenal goal-kick. 

90+2: Gibbs does well to win a corner for Arsenal after holding off a challenge from Jedinak near the corner flag who accidentally tackles the ball out of play.

Cazorla whips the ball into the box, and Chamberlain hits a strike which deflects off a Palace defender out for a throw-in. The referee decides to blow the whistle with seconds to spare, with cheers from both sides after an interesting match.

FULL-TIME - Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 0:

Arsenal move back up to the top of the EPL table thanks to a brace from young forward Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the second-half, as Palace were virtually unable to create many clear cut chances apart from Jerome's far post header which was well saved by Szczesny. 

Well played: Chamberlain applauds the fans at full-time after a commanding peformance.
My Man Of The Match:

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - 
One of my favourite young players in the world, regardless of the team I support. I have watched him play ever since he was bossing the midfield in the Southampton youth ranks at age 15-16, and I am personally happy for him to see him play with such confidence and ability again after being unfortunately out of action for the past few months due to injury which has hindered his development for both Arsenal and England. 

Now that he is back fit and playing, his link-up play with Ozil and Cazorla is top-class and his overall contribution to the game has improved significantly since he joined Arsenal back in the summer of 2011 for a reported fee of £15million pounds. 

He is quick on the counter attack, and is able to easily track back when needed to help defend with the rest of his team-mates winning the ball back with power and authority like an experienced central midfielder. 

Even though his natural position is an attacking midfielder, winger or a second striker - he does not score as many goals as he would like simply because he does not get the opportunities in-front of goal and assists his team-mates instead, feeding them killer through passes and crosses from the flanks.  

His brace today has showed that he is gradually maturing into a great young player, which could be a signal of things to come for him and Arsenal over the next couple of months.

Before I go, here is my own match report of the earlier kick-off in the EPL between West Brom and Liverpool at The Hawthorns: 

West Brom hosted Liverpool at The Hawthorns in the earlier kick-off in the EPL today.
Liverpool looked the brighter of the two sides and eventually made the hosts pay, with striker Daniel Sturridge breaking the deadlock in the 24th minute. 

This was after some lacklustre marking and defending on West Brom's part saw the English forward run into space to tap the ball into an empty net after Sterling's run into the crowded area fed Suarez, who saw Sturridge lurking and crossed the ball unselfishly to his strike partner to open the scoring.  

Easy one: Sturridge taps the ball into the empty net as Foster can only look on helplessly

Racking up the goals: Sturridge celebrates his 3rd goal in a week and 14th goal of the season
Luis Suarez had a curling free-kick strike narrowly wide of the post in the 27th minute, before a goalmouth scramble almost doubled The Reds lead in the 33rd minute only for Suarez and co to be denied by goalkeeper Ben Foster with quick reactions. 

West Brom midfielder Zoltan Gera was unlucky with a curling effort on the stroke of half-time, while Suarez came close in the 59th minute with some silky footwork past a defender before having his finesse strike parried away by the long legs of Foster. 

The hosts got back into the game with an equaliser in the 66th minute (albeit by a stroke of luck) as defender Kolo Toure was under pressure from two West Brom strikers and made a misplaced pass straight into the path of Nigerian striker Victor Anichebe who made no mistake with a thumping low finish past Simon Mignolet to make it 1-1 and send the Hawthorns wild. 

Power over placement: Anichebe clinically finished from Kolo Toure's mistake to equalise

Luck: Anichebe runs to celebrate his finish while Toure (right) is distraught after his mistake
Frustration: Toure cannot believe it after his mistake cost Liverpool 3 points away from home
That was the last real highlight of the match, with West Brom doing well to hold out for a vital point at home against title contenders Liverpool who moved within 3 points of 3rd placed Chelsea and leapfrogged local rivals Everton who won their respective match against Aston Villa yesterday. 

Thank you for reading my blog post today, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I liked creating it - I will have a few blog posts published in the upcoming days. 

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