Sur­ren­der of two-goal lead is al­most an ir­rel­e­vance on day of mutiny at Arse­nal

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Football - Att: 60,345 By Sam Dean

A day of chaos, con­tro­versy and mutiny at the Emi­rates, where Arse­nal’s fre­netic start to the sea­son con­tin­ued in the most ex­tra­or­di­nary fash­ion. To call this a feisty draw with Crys­tal Palace would be do­ing a ma­jor dis­ser­vice to the sheer num­ber of in­ci­dents on an af­ter­noon when the con­nec­tion be­tween the Arse­nal team and their fans ap­peared more frayed than at any point in Unai Emery’s reign.

The lin­ger­ing im­age of this match will be the sight of a fu­ri­ous Granit Xhaka swear­ing at his own sup­port­ers and march­ing down the tun­nel, his shirt aban­doned on the floor be­hind him. The home crowd turned on the club cap­tain and then called en masse for Me­sut Ozil, the ex­iled play­maker who can­not even make the sub­sti­tutes’ bench.

For months to come, the men­tion of Palace will con­jure up images of video as­sis­tant ref­eree re­views and missed op­por­tu­ni­ties in Emery’s mind. He now has a ma­jor prob­lem to solve with Xhaka, and he made clear af­ter­wards that he also has a ma­jor prob­lem with the video tech­nol­ogy af­ter his side were de­nied a late win­ner that would have gone some way to­wards re­build­ing the at­mos­phere around the club.

All this is be­fore Emery even con­sid­ers the way his team sur­ren­dered a two-goal lead, seized af­ter just nine min­utes, and al­lowed Palace to turn this match into the un­ruly scrap they wanted.

And still there were more sub­plots. Wil­fried Zaha was in typ­i­cally mis­chievous mood as he came up against the side who had tried to buy him this sum­mer. He wound up the home fans, cup­ping his ear and smirk­ing at them in the first half, then wound up the Arse­nal de­fence by win­ning the penalty kick – via a VAR re­view – that trig­gered the Palace come­back.

Palace had their own com­plaints with the ref­eree, with Roy Hodg­son say­ing later that Arse­nal’s se­cond goal, prod­ded home by David Luiz, should have been dis­al­lowed be­cause of a push in the build-up. Hodg­son also thought that Mat­teo Guen­douzi, the Arse­nal mid­fielder, could have been sent off for a rugby tackle on Zaha that would not have looked out of place in the week­end’s World Cup semi-fi­nals.

In all, it was one of the most breath­less en­coun­ters of the sea­son. By the fi­nal whis­tle, it felt as if

Arse­nal’s opener had been scored in a dif­fer­ent life­time. It came from a set-piece, with Palace fail­ing to clear Ni­co­las Pepe’s de­liv­ery and al­low­ing Sokratis to thump his ef­fort through the mass of bod­ies.

David Luiz scored the se­cond a few min­utes later, prod­ding home af­ter Alexan­dre La­cazette had flicked on from another Pepe de­liv­ery. It could even have been three within 12 min­utes had Wayne Hen­nessey not dived low to save La­cazette’s shot.

In Zaha, though, Palace had a per­ma­nent threat. Calum Chambers had started the game well as he looked to keep the winger quiet, but the Arse­nal right-back soon fell into the same trap as so many other de­fend­ers have against Zaha, dan­gling a leg and watch­ing in an­guish as the Palace for­ward fell over it.

For a brief mo­ment, Chambers thought he had got away with the foul. Martin Atkin­son, the ref­eree, orig­i­nally booked Zaha for div­ing un­til he was over­ruled by the VAR. Luka Milivo­je­vic’s sub­se­quent penalty was his fifth goal in six games against Arse­nal.

Just like that, the Emi­rates crowd was en­gulfed by nerves. It would only get worse when James Mcarthur’s cross al­lowed Jor­dan Ayew to head in an equaliser af­ter half-time.

From here the match lost all con­trol. Arse­nal were fu­ri­ous with both them­selves and the ref­eree, while the fans were so ag­i­tated that they soon turned their frus­tra­tions on to their own cap­tain in those ex­tra­or­di­nary few mo­ments which will be for­ever scorched into Xhaka’s mind.

There was no way that Xhaka’s team-mates had not been af­fected by what hap­pened, but they pushed on none­the­less. Sokratis thought he had made the key break­through, from another cor­ner, be­fore VAR in­ter­vened by spot­ting the slight­est of fouls by Chambers on Milivo­je­vic. Arse­nal were stung and, at the other end, Zaha was within inches of a win­ner which, one sus­pects, may well have pro­voked the Emi­rates crowd into a full-on re­volt.

Mis­chievous: Crys­tal Palace’s Wil­fried Zaha wound up Arse­nal fans and team

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