Late VAR controversy denies Gunners
Crystal Palace 2
A highly controversial VAR decision denied Arsenal victory against Crystal Palace at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon.
The Eagles came from two goals down to claim a 2-2 draw, but once again VAR will make tomorrow morning’s headlines after it chalked off what would have been Sokratis’ second goal of the game and an almost certain winner for the Gunners.
With just minutes remaining Nicolas Pepe’s left-wing corner was headed on by Alexandre Lacazette and found its way to Calum Chambers. The ball was bundled towards the edge of the box by the Palace defence but fell to Greek central defender Sokratis who hammered home.
However VAR decided there had been a foul in the build-up by Chambers and the goal was chalked off.
As the game went into injury time Palace themselves felt hard done by as Wilfried Zaha, a summer target for the Gunners, turned on the half-way line but was cynically brought down by Matteo Guendouzi. Palace appealed for a red card but the ball being in the Palace half at the time of the foul was probably the only thing that saved the Arsenal youngster.
Arsenal started on the front foot but were helped by some catastrophic defending from the Eagles early on.
The Gunners scored twice from left sided Pepe corners in two minutes inside the first 10 minutes, and at that stage there was little sign of what was to come from the Eagles.
From the first of the two Pepe corners Granit Xhaka challenged Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey and the ball fell to Sokratis on the edge of the area, who took his time before firing low into the net.
Then, just two minutes later, Lacazette flicked on an identical Pepe corner and the ball was nudged home at the far post by David Luiz.
Five minutes later and Lacazette could have killed the game. Given far too much time in the box by the Eagles’ defence, he controlled the impressive Kieran Tierney’s left-wing centre, but his left-footed shot was well saved low to his right by Hennessey.
Arsenal’s right-side corners continued to cause the visitors all sorts of problems. Another in-swinger from Pepe was missed by Sokratis and bundled out by Joel Ward.
But on 26 minutes Palace were back in the game. Zaha latched on to a long ball and drew a challenge from Sokratis in the box. Referee Martin Atkinson immediately waved away the Palace penalty appeals and promptly booked Zaha for diving.
However VAR intervened and rightly overturned Atkinson’s decision – Luca Milivojevic halving the deficit from the spot.
Arsenal could have restored their two-goal advantage shortly before the interval, Dani Ceballos’ chipped cross evading both striker and keeper but floating just the wrong side of the far post from an Arsenal point of view.
And bang on half-time Patrick van Aanholt had a shot well saved by Bernd Leno.
But seven minutes into the second half Palace were level. McArthur floated a cross from the left which beat Bernd Leno and was headed home from three yards by Jordan Ayew.
On the hour mark Arsenal brought on Bukayo Saka for Granit Xhaka. As the Gunners’ skipper slowly made his was off he was jeered by the crowd for taking his time.
But his response was irresponsible to say the least. He cuffed his ears and threw his arms up in sarcasm before removing his Arsenal shirt and heading straight for the tunnel.
The home side then pushed for the winner, Calum Chambers firing a shot over and Lacazette shooting into the side netting.
And after the late drama there was still time for Zaha to fire wide for Palace, a strike which would have rubbed salt into the Arsenal wounds.
Arsenal: Leno, Tierney, Sokratis (Kolasinac), Ceballos, Lacazette, Aubameyang, Pepe, Chambers (yellow), Luiz, Guendouzi (yellow), Xhaka
Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Van Aanholt, Milivojevic, Tomkins, Kouyate (McCarthy), Ayew (Benteke), Townsend, Zaha, McArthur, Cahill
Referee: Martin Atkinson