By Aimee Lewis
17 Apr From the sectionFootball
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Alexis Sanchez has scored in back-to-back Premier League home games for Arsenal for the first time since January 2015
Yannick Bolasie struck late for Crystal Palace to secure a draw in a match which Arsenal completely dominated.
Arsenal should have won comfortably to leapfrog Manchester City into third but instead they remain fourth in a nervy race for a Champions League spot.
Alexis Sanchez headed in Danny Welbeck’s chip to give the Gunners the lead but they lacked a killer instinct to put the result beyond doubt.
Bolasie then struck from distance, beating Petr Cech at his near post.
The Congolese forward’s equaliser alarmingly sucked the energy out of Arsenal and it was their London rivals who seemed more likely to score in the dying minutes.
Wilfried Zaha had the home defence backpedalling with a surging run into the box, but luckily for the Gunners a heavy touch from the winger allowed Gabriel to nick the ball.
It was a performance which summed up Arsenal’s season. They missed a number of opportunities, had more than 70% of the possession but once again failed to secure three points in a match they were expected to win.
Relive the action from Emirates Stadium.
Mesut Ozil (left) with Alexis Sanchez
Ozil and Sanchez combined wonderfully at times without producing an end product
Arsenal home form worrying
The Gunners have collected eight points from their past six home games and it is that form which has ruined their title hopes and is threatening to wreck their ambitions of competing in next season’s Champions League.
Arsenal still enjoy a four-point cushion over Manchester United in fifth and are level on points with City in third, but two draws in their past two games has increased the pressure on Arsene Wenger and his men in the run-in.
Wenger has not failed to qualify for the Champions League during his 20-year tenure, but his critics will point out that neither has the club finished higher than third in their past 10 campaigns.
The tale of this match was a familiar one to Arsenal fans and a nervous energy remained around the stadium even after Sanchez had put the hosts ahead in first-half stoppage time.
Arsenal created chances, notably Ozil and Sanchez free-kicks, a hooked Danny Welbeck effort and another Sanchez header. Midway through the second half nine Arsenal players had made more passes than Palace’s top passer, but as has often been the case, the Gunners were unable to put the game to bed.
Of Palace’s equaliser, Wenger said: “It did not look unstoppable”
No flair, but Palace won’t care
Palace enjoyed their first victory of the year last weekend, courtesy of Jason Puncheon’s winner over Norwich, but they remain winless on the road in eight league matches.
There was no hint in the first half that the FA Cup semi-finalists would snatch a point from this match. Rarely did they visit the opposition half and all their energy went into containing the creativity of Ozil and Sanchez.
But manager Alan Pardew must be praised for his attacking substitutions after the break, introducing former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor, much to the chagrin of the home support, and Zaha to support the lively Bolasie.
Even with extra creativity in their ranks, the visitors created little. Until Bakary Sako’s header from a corner in the 76th minute they had had no chance on goal in the second half.
But with a point giving the Londoners an extra cushion from the relegation scrap between Newcastle, Sunderland and Norwich, Pardew will care little about his team’s lack of flair at Emirates Stadium.
What the managers said
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: “It is very difficult – we had a lot of possession but did not make enough of it. We lacked a change of pace, sharpness.