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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's double helped Arsenal back to the top of the Barclays Premier League with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
The England midfielder broke the deadlock shortly after half-time on his return to the side at Emirates Stadium, before he wrapped the game up on 72 minutes finishing a flowing move.
Arsene Wenger's men were made to work hard against a typically resolute Palace, but victory sees returns them to the summit, although Manchester City can reclaim top spot if they beat Chelsea on Monday.
After a first half lacking in many clear-cut chances, Oxlade-Chamberlain brought the game to life by guiding an effort past Julian Speroni from a superb chip over the top by by Santi Cazorla two minutes after the break. The 20-year-old confirmed the win with a driven strike, as Arsenal made it 10 matches without defeat in all competitions.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was recalled in place of the suspended Mathieu Flamini in midfield. Marouane Chamakh started against his former club for Palace.
Arsenal controlled possession in the opening exchanges and their early dominance resulted in the first opening on seven minutes when Nacho Monreal received Mesut Ozil's switch of play, and th left-back forced goalkeeper Speroni into action from a tight angle.
Tony Pulis's side settled into the game, however, with Chamakh looking particularly threatening, but a lack of composure in the final third meant they created few chances.
The visitors needed Speroni to be on his guard shortly after the half-hour when Ozil's crossed free-kick deceived everybody in the penalty area and forced a smart save. That proved to be the closest Arsenal went in the first half, with a resolute Palace defence frustrating the home side.
It took Arsenal just two minutes to break Palace's resistance in the second half. Cazorla picked out Oxlade-Chamberlain with a wonderfully clipped pass over the Palace defence and the midfielder controlled well before lofting his effort over the advancing Speroni.
Palace missed a gilt-edged opportunity to level the scores shortly after. Dwight Gayle's cross deflected to Yannick Bolasie, who nodded the ball into the path of the unmarked Cameron Jerome, but his far-post header was kept out by a fine stop from Wojciech Szczesny.
That miss proved costly for the visitors. Oxlade-Chamberlain played a swift one-two with Olivier Giroud before driving into the box and drilling his shot past Speroni.
Arsenal rarely looked troubled in the closing stages as the visitors fell to a 15th league defeat of the season to remain just outside the relegation zone.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: “We needed to get three points and it was difficult because Crystal Palace are a united team, very well-organised with a big physical quality and impact in every challenge. I must say that did that in a fair way but it was very difficult to create space. On our side we needed to be patient, intelligent and use our opportunities that most of the time come in the second half. That's what we did.
“I always believed that he could play wide and central, I said that many times that his future will be central. He has proven me right today, by scoring the goals but also by the quality of his performance. It took him a while to get back.”
Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis: "We were disappointed to lose a poor goal after half-time. Then our big moment came 90 seconds later and we did not take it. That was the difference.
"We kept going; we showed good determination and resilience. We have played at Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur since I have been here and we have been a threat in those games with our wide men playing really well. It was not the case today; they did not carry that threat, but they kept going.
"We need to score more goals and we're hoping our signings will do that. Tom Ince has goals from wide; we're convinced he will score goals. Joe Ledley has a good scoring record, so we're adding goals. Added to the fact that Glenn [Murray] is nearing a return - he will play another game tomorrow [Monday] - we're feeling positive."
|08 Feb 2014||v Liverpool (A)|
|12 Feb 2014||v Man Utd (H)|
|22 Feb 2014||v Sunderland (H)|
|01 Mar 2014||v Stoke (A)|
|16 Mar 2014||v Spurs (A)|
|22 Mar 2014||v Chelsea (A)|