Zaha inspires Palace to battle back for VAR-assisted draw at Arsenal
Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 2
Wilfried Zaha showed Arsenal what they could have had – inspiring Palace to recover from two goals down to claim a point at Emirates Stadium.
They twice needed VAR decisions to go their way – with an apparent late winner from Socrates chalked off controversially after an inconclusive tangle of legs in the area and a penalty award that was initially not given.
Much of the summer transfer rumour mill centred around a possible move to Arsenal for Zaha, but it never materialised and the Ivorian has knuckled down to do his bit for the Eagles.
There was certainly no hint of ‘what might have been’ from Zaha or home fans, who were infuriated when he won a penalty that got Palace back into the game after half an hour when they had trailed 2-0 after nine minutes.
Ref Martin Atkinson certainly thought it was a dive when the winger fell over the outstretched leg of Calum Chambers and promptly booked him.
But a check with VAR confirmed that Zaha was the victim and not the culprit.
The second opinion only inflamed Gunners fans, who were convinced the Palace man had thrown himself to the floor.
Luka Milivojevic made no mistake from the spot – as is usually the case with the Palace skipper.
The goal lifted the Eagles and they grew in confidence as the half wore on – Patrick Van Aanholt stinging the palms of Bernd Leno with a powerful shot.
And Palace were level through Jordan Ayew seven minutes into the second half when Zaha sent McArthur down the left and a perfect cross stood up to the far post was nodded in with ease.
Roy Hodgson’s men could not quite go on to claim their first ever back to back wins at Arsenal but will be happy with the point – Wayne Hennessey clawing away a late effort from David Luiz.
Zaha did fire a low shot which almost squeezed in during injury time and was rugby tackled by a terrified Matteo Guendouzi as he embarked on a breakaway but perhaps a win would have been a bit fortunate.
“He’s just too good for you,” crowed Palace fans.
The afternoon looked like it would be heading in an entirely different direction as abject defending at two corners saw them go two down very early on.
For the first, Gary Cahill failed to get any purchase on a clearing header and Granit Xhaka’s nod down gave Sokratis all the time he needed to crash home.
Cheik Kouyate should have done better in closing down the goalscorer, but turned his back on the ball at the crucial moment.
Worse was to follow a minute later when another of Nicolas Pepe’s inswinging corners was flicked on at the near post by Alex Lacazette and David Luiz touched home at the far post.
Only a low save from Hennessey prevented a third goal from Lacazette not long after and Joel Ward needed to scamper back quickly to deny Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang another pot at goal after a chase onto a long through ball.
But Palace got a toe-hold thanks to Zaha and managed to frustrate the hosts once they had drawn level.
Line up: Hennessey – Ward, Tomkins, Cahill, Van Aanholt – Kouyate (McCarthy 90), Milivojevic, McArthur – Townsend, Ayew (Benteke 81), Zaha. Subs not used: Henderson, Dann, Meyer, Schlupp, Kelly.