Milivojevic’s double from the spot checks Arsenal’s run
Crystal Palace captain earns his side a point after Gunners come from behind
Luka Milivojevic celebrates his equalising penalty against Arsenal. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty
Crystal Palace 2 Arsenal 2
So the winning run has been curtailed at 11. Arsenal’s resurgent streak in all competitions was checked in this corner of south London by an aggressive and energetic Crystal Palace team whose first home goals of the season, both from the penalty spot, left the visitors clutching merely a point for their efforts. That, in truth, felt sufficient reward given Unai Emery’s side had only played in fits and starts. They departed rather bruised by the whole experience.
Perhaps they had not seen it coming given how obliging Palace have proved on home turf in recent times. As it was, having recovered a deficit to secure a lead with two goals in four second-half minutes, Arsenal were only eight minutes from prevailing yet again when Wilfried Zaha, pesky throughout, bamboozled Granit Xhaka with a blur of step-overs and eventually coaxed a lunge from the Swiss. Down went Zaha and Luka Milivojevic, for the second time in the afternoon, thumped in the resultant penalty.
A point was no more than Palace deserved. This team had forgotten that sensation of scoring in friendly surroundings. Not since Patrick van Aanholt netted 12 minutes from the end of last season’s final fixture had Palace registered at Selhurst Park, with Milivojevic’s first having ended 417 minutes of scoreless play in the dregs of the first half. Jordan Ayew, booked early on for a foul on Alexandre Lacazette but unperturbed as he feverishly hassled and harried the visitors’ backline, squeezed the concession of a corner that Arsenal would have deemed exasperating. The hosts had been a threat from set-plays already with Andros Townsend’s delivery again prompting panic. James Tomkins might have converted, but Shkodran Mustafi’s challenge on Cheikhou Kouyaté as the ball broke loose was deemed illegal by Martin Atkinson.
Milivojevic, denied from the spot at Everton last weekend, rammed the penalty into the corner. The visitors disputed the decision, with a member of Emery’s coaching staff, clutching a laptop, approaching the referee incensed as the teams departed at the break before being ushered down the tunnel.
Yet that lead had been merited, their busy industry having knocked Arsenal off their stride almost from the outset. Zaha, excellent and direct in his running, had struck the outside of a post and combined with Van Aanholt moments later with Townsend squirting the Dutchman’s low centre just wide. Those felt like wasteful misses, the kind that have undermined the team’s progress this term, only for the penalty to establish an advantage.
As it transpired, it would be short-lived. It had taken a fine block from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Mamadou Sakho to deny Héctor Bellerín, but Emery would still have been dismayed that his side had been restricted to only flashes of quality up to then, usually when the Spanish full-back – who would retired early with a muscle problem – combined with Lacazette or the captain, Mesut Özil, in the approach. Yet Arsenal have tended to revive after half-time of late, emerging from apparently awkward contests to prevail, and their tempo was raised upon the restart. Milivojevic’s foul on Lucas Torreira just outside of the corner of the box duly conceded a free-kick that Xhaka dispatched gloriously into the far top corner via a flick from Wayne Hennessey’s fingertips.
It was a stunning equaliser, and one which left Palace momentarily floored. Even so, they were incensed to fall behind in the rather frantic moments which followed, Xhaka’s delivery again whipped into a cluttered six-yard box where Lacazette leapt, his gloved hand above his head, and appeared to flick the ball against Ayew. Pierre-Emerick Abameyang just about bundled over the line despite Hennessey’s attempt to block at the far post, with the home side perplexed as to why the handball had neither been spotted nor penalised.
Yet that was the only flurry served up of Arsenal at their vibrant best. The substitute Max Meyer would strike the woodwork with virtually his first involvement as Palace pressed desperately for the parity that eventually arrived from the spot. This felt like a minor triumph. For Arsenal, with Liverpool awaiting next weekend, it was a set-back.