Arsenal 2-2 Crystal Palace: Gunners let two-goal lead slip as skipper Xhaka disgraces himself
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Crystal Palace at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon, with VAR playing its part while club captain Granit Xhaka disgrace himself with a moment of madness in an action-packed game.
In a whirlwind first-half, Sokratis and David Luiz both scored from corners inside the opening 10 minutes as the Gunners made the perfect start in response to a week filled with criticism after two poor performances.
But, that response soon started to unravel.
With 32 minutes played Wilfried Zaha won a penalty after a foul by Calum Chambers and lengthy VAR check, with Luka Milivojevic slotting home from the spot.
Then, 52 minutes in, Arsenal failed to stop a cross to the back post, allowing Jordan Ayew time and space to nod into the net at the back post.
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Xhaka's moment of madness came on the hour mark as he threw his shirt to ground and stormed down the tunnel after being substituted, with the skipper surely to be reprimanded for his actions.
The Gunners thought they had won it when Sokratis smashed home a shot on 82 minutes, but VAR spotted a foul in the box and disallowed the goal.
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Unai Emery made nine changes from the side that beat Vitoria Guimaraes on Thursday, with Alexandre Lacazette and Kieran Tierney the only two to keep their place.
Nicolas Pepe was restored to the starting XI after his heroics off the bench in midweek, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returned to the team and Dani Ceballos was given a start after coming on as a half-time substitute in the two previous games.
Arsenal made a lightning fast start and found themselves 2-0 up inside the first 10 minutes, with both goals coming from corners.
They had Palace 'keeper Hennessey to thank for the opener on seven minutes as he failed to punch clear Pepe's delivery, with the ball eventually falling to Sokratis who smashed home on the volley.
Not to be outdone, his defensive partner Luiz doubled the lead just two minutes later, as he turned the ball into the net after a flick on from Lacazette at the near post.
In truth, Emery must take some credit for their superb start, with his offensive 4-2-4 formation allowing his side to press their London rivals into mistakes at the back.
Hennessey then atoned for his error on 12 minutes as he denied Lacazette with a smart save down to his right after a good ball in from Tierney.
But, the away side found a way back into the game on 32 minutes after they won a penalty through the intervention of VAR.
Zaha ran at Chambers before jinking down the outside, with the winger going over the outstretched leg of the Arsenal man. Despite Martin Atkinson initially booking the Palace star for diving, a lengthy check by VAR overturned the decision.
Milivojevic stepped up to take, sending Bernd Leno the wrong way to bring the visitors back into the game.
James McArthur was allowed time and space down the left, with Granit Xhaka failing to stop his cross to the back post before Luiz lost Ayew who was left with the simple task of heading home.
Then came a moment that angered the already riled up crowd, but it didn't come from the opposition or a refereeing decision, but instead from the club's captain.
Granit Xhaka was taken off with an hour played to big cheers from the Emirates, and he then preceded to throw the captain's armband at Aubameyang and slowly walk.
Boos started to ring out, leading to the midfielder egging on the crowd before taking off his shirt, throwing it to the ground and storming down the tunnel.
It was behaviour that was not becoming of a professional let allow club captain, and could lead to serious consequences for the Swiss.
Arsenal tried to push the goal that would get them back in front, with Lacazette going close as his shot from a tight angle cannoned off the post.
They thought they had won it when Sokratis smashed a shot into the corner after a scramble in the box, but VAR spotted a foul in the build-up and the goal was chalked off and the spoils were shared.