Aaron Ramsey netted a stoppage-time winner to snatch a 2-1 Barclays Premier League victory for Arsenal over Crystal Palace.
The south London club were rocked by Tony Pulis's departure on the eve of the season on Friday, but they performed admirably before taking a shock lead at Emirates Stadium. Having comfortably absorbed waves of Arsenal pressure, Brede Hangeland headed Palace and their caretaker manager Keith Millen into a 35th-minute lead.
Laurent Koscielny levelled on the stroke of half-time, but the FA Cup holders looked like they would fail to capitalise, even as Palace winger Jason Puncheon departed for a second booking in the closing stages. But Ramsey was on hand to prod home from point-blank range after Mathieu Debuchy's shot had been saved.
Hangeland joined fellow defender Martin Kelly and striker Fraizer Campbell in making their Palace debuts, while Arsenal were unchanged from last weekend's FA Community Shield win over Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City.
Arsene Wenger's team tore forward during the early stages in the hope of capitalising on any vulnerability after a turbulent 24 hours for their London rivals. But the massed ranks of Palace defenders retained the hallmarks of their former manager and Ramsey's tumble under a challenge from Scott Dann for an optimistic eighth-minute penalty shout underscored a frustrating opening for the hosts.
Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni had to wait until the 29th minute to make his first save, parrying smartly behind after Jack Wilshere's drive bounced awkwardly. Marouane Chamakh tried to embarrass his former club with an audacious attempt from distance that Koscielny cleared to safety after goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny had torn out of his area to challenge Campbell.
The incident appeared to unsettle Arsenal and they were still reeling when Hangeland shrugged off Alexis Sanchez and leapt above Koscielny at the near post to glance home Palace's first corner of the match.
But the roles were reversed in first-half stoppage time when Koscielny peeled away from Hangeland to nod Sanchez's floated free-kick beyond Speroni.
Arsenal left-back Kieran Gibbs limped off with a suspected hamstring problem to be replaced by Nacho Monreal seven minutes into the second half, by which time the match had settled back into the pattern established the last time it was level.
Sanchez drove at the Palace defence in the 68th minute and cleverly exchanged passes with Santi Cazorla, but Speroni's save was routine. Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain emerged from the bench as Arsenal pushed for a second goal, the former agonisingly close to turning home a close-range winner in the 75th minute. Arsenal's efforts appeared in vain until Ramsey's late intervention.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "Ramsey has something of a rare gift; that is to be where you need to be in the box. Credit to Palace, they worked hard, were physically very strong and very organised. "We gave ourselves a difficult task. They gave us big problems and defended very well. We keep going; that's one of our strengths and it paid off.
"The change of pace in the final third [could have been better]. That is usually one of our strengths. Is it down to the quality of defending or the fact that we are not there physically yet? Maybe a bit of both. Our attitude was right, on the fluency we can do better. But that will come. Let's get everybody physically ready.
"Because of the physicality and the organisation level of Crystal Palace it was very difficult for us. Why? Because we conceded a goal from the first corner they had and because we still lack a bit of pace in the final third to change what [play] we build up into dangerous situation.
"But we kept going and in the end it was enough to win the game and take the three points. You can see for the first game of the season we are the only team who has won at home. That shows you that it's difficult for everybody on the first day of the season.”
Crystal Palace caretaker manager Keith Millen: “I am proud of the players, proud of the performance. But disappointed not to have got something out of the game which we deserved, and more disappointed with the manner of the goals we conceded.
"The players can take a lot of confidence from their performance, we know we can compete at this level, we know we've got to get more competition for places, but the players are waiting to be given a new direction on and off the field.
"I'd like to continue [as manager], I enjoy being in charge. Whether it's the right time or not [I don't know]. I'll speak to the chairman tomorrow. It's been very quick in the last two days, the chairman's not had a chance to talk to the players, to talk to me about his ideas going forward, we just focused on today's game.
"On Monday I'm sure there will be more conversations because the players need to know what direction the club wants to go in and hopefully at the start of the week there will be some more answers."
|23 Aug 2014||v Everton (A)|
|31 Aug 2014||v Leicester (A)|
|13 Sep 2014||v Man City (H)|
|20 Sep 2014||v Aston Villa (A)|
|27 Sep 2014||v Spurs (H)|
|05 Oct 2014||v Chelsea (A)|