Veteran manager Roy Hodgson’s final outing managing Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park ended in a disappointing defeat to London rivals Arsenal. Two goals for the Gunners in injury time condemned the Eagles to a 3-1 loss on Wednesday evening.
Dressed in their striking new away kit for next season, the visitors dominated possession right from the start and took the lead in the 35th minute, with Nicolas Pepe applying the finishing touch to a well-worked move down the left flank.
However, amidst increased pressure from the home side in the second half, parity was restored in the 62nd minute via Christian Benteke. The striker stooped to plant a firm header past Bernd Leno after getting on the end of a pin-point free-kick into the box from Andros Townsend.
Buoyed on by their enthusiastic supporters in attendance, Palace pushed for a winner but ended up leaving spaces at the back, which Arsenal exploited to the fullest. After Gabriel Martinelli put the visitors ahead a few seconds into added time, Pepe put the result beyond doubt with a classy run and finish right at the death.
Thus, Mikel Arteta’s men keep their slim hopes of qualifying for European football alive. They find themselves just a point behind sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, with the final game of the season left to play.
On that note, here are the Arsenal player ratings from the game:
Bernd Leno: 6/10
Although the German was never really tested by the opposition and couldn’t do much about the goal, he had to be on alert to make his fair share of smart saves to keep Palace at bay.
Calum Chambers: 5/10
The Arsenal right-back had his hands full with the considerable threat of Wilfried Zaha but dealt well with the Ivorian. He also found the time to make regular forays down the right flank and send in a few presentable crosses.
Rob Holding: 5/10
Dealt well with the physical presence of Benteke and provided adequate cover for Chambers to keep Zaha at bay as well.
Gabriel Magalhaes: 4/10
The Brazilian was calm and composed with the ball at his feet but looked unsure when the ball was in the air around him, especially with Benteke lurking in the vicinity.
Arguably let the Belgian slip his attention far too easily for Palace's equalizer.
Kieran Tierney: 6/10
Showed great desire to get forward from left-back at every opportunity and was involved in a few scrappy tackles. But he was rewarded for his efforts when Pepe swept home the opener following his probing cross.
Unfortunately for the Gunners, the Scotsman was forced off in the second half after looking to have sustained an injury.
Thomas Partey: 5/10
Partey was a calm and assured presence in midfield for the Gunners, sweeping up any loose balls and getting his side moving in the right direction with simple yet intelligent passing.
However, the Ghanaian’s eagerness to win the ball back cost the side after a clumsy tackle in a dangerous area gave away the free-kick that led to Palace's equalizer.
Mohamed Elneny: 5/10
The more mobile of Arsenal’s midfield duo, the Egyptian put himself about the pitch and was successful in breaking up the play on a number of occasions.
Nicolas Pepe: 8/10
The Ivorian looked dangerous throughout the game and provided a moment of quality in each half, bagging the opener with a deft volleyed finish before killing off the tie deep in added time after a mazy run into the box.
Emile Smith Rowe: 5/10
The young Englishman often found himself unmarked in lots of space when he pulled out onto the right flank, but was unable to supply the killer pass for his fellow attackers to profit from.
Bukayo Saka: 5/10
Rekindled his previously fruitful partnership with Tierney down the left flank, with the duo linking up extremely well in the buildup to Arsenal’s opener.
The Arsenal faithful will be hoping to see much more of the same next season if the Gunners are to have an improved campaign.
A disappointing outing for the Arsenal skipper, who looked to be off the pace and was rather isolated from his fellow attackers, rarely getting on the ball despite playing the full 90.
Martin Odegaard: 6/10
Came on for Saka midway through the second half and provided the telling cross into the box for Martinelli to score.
Gabriel Martinelli: 6/10
The Brazilian was sent on to offer increased attacking impetus to the Gunners for the final 10 minutes and was rewarded for his desire and tenacity with a late goal.
Granit Xhaka: 5/10
Having filled in at left-back for much of the season, the Swiss international once again played the final 10 minutes in defence after Tierney was forced off through injury.