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Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 0

Olivier Giroud’s incredible scorpion kick set Arsenal on the way to a victory over Crystal Palace which moved them up to third in the Premier League. With a cross from Alexis Sanchez delivered behind him, Frenchman Giroud elastically reached the ball with his left foot, looping it over his head and in off the underside of the bar. An Alex Iwobi header gave Arsenal a scrappy second before Palace briefly rallied to force saves from home goalkeeper Petr Cech. The win moves the Gunners back to within nine points of leaders Chelsea, while Palace stay 17th, two points above the relegation zone. The visitors have won only once in 13 league games, with manager Sam Allardyce awaiting his first victory since taking over from Alan Pardew.

Giroud marked his return to the Arsenal starting line-up on Boxing Day by scoring the only goal in the win over West Bromwich Albion, and followed up here by pulling off one of the most memorable moments of this or any other season. Indeed, it was made all the more remarkable for its echoes of a similarly breathtaking goal scored by Manchester United’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the defeat of Sunderland on Monday. If anything, Giroud’s was even more impressive, an acrobatic finish to a head-high cross delivered from the left by Sanchez at the end of a pacy Arsenal counter-attack. As the ball arrived, a sprinting Giroud turned to stick out his left foot, flicked the ball over his head and saw it arc over the leap of Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, off the woodwork and into the net.

Arsenal lost ground in the title race with defeats by Everton and Manchester City, and began this game in fifth place following Tottenham’s win at Watford. Giroud’s goal was the highlight of an otherwise lacklustre first half in which the only other moment of note was the Frenchman missing his kick attempting to meet a cross inside the six-yard box. Still, the Gunners’ threat was always apparent, particularly in the shape of the forward running of full-backs Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal, who tormented the Palace defence throughout. Monreal was involved in the second goal, providing a cross that was not dealt with, Iwobi heading in despite the efforts of Palace defender Joel Ward on the line. Olivier Giroud has scored eight goals in his past six starts for Arsenal in all competitions.

Sam Allardyce has never won at Arsenal as a manager in all competitions, drawing four and losing 12 of his 16 visits. Since joining the club, Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in 88 goals for Arsenal in all competitions (56 goals, 32 assists) – 26 more than any other Gunner. Arsenal have won 130 of their 200 Premier League games at the Emirates under Arsene Wenger (65%) – they won 72% of their league games at Highbury under the Frenchman (134/186). The Gunners have kept consecutive Premier League clean sheets at home for the first time this season, last doing so in their final three games of 2015-16.

Roshan

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