CRYSTAL PALACE -FRI AUG 5 – 20:00
A Gabriel Martinelli header and a late Marc Guehi own goal ensured that we got our Premier League campaign off to the perfect start as we claimed a 2-0 win against Crystal Palace.
The Brazilian headed home on 19 minutes after a well-worked corner routine, but despite a solid opening 45 minutes, we were forced to absorb plenty of Palace pressure after the restart, and had Aaron Ramsdale to thank for keeping us in front who made a couple of excellent saves to deny Odsonne Edouard and Eberechi Eze.
However, our defence held firm and victory was sealed six minutes from time when Bukayo Saka’s cross was deflected home by Guehi to ensure Mikel Arteta registered his 50th top-flight victory.
Dominant first-half display
The opening 45 minutes was full of encouragement for our travelling supporters, as we took control of proceedings right from the kick-off. Just three minutes in, Gabriel Jesus nearly marked his official debut with a glorious goal when he collected the ball on the edge of the box, nutmegged a defender before dribbling around another, and after his goalbound shot was blocked by a desperate Guehi, Martinelli stroked the rebound wide of the far post.
Despite seeing that glorious early chance go begging, we continued to press and Oleksandr Zinchenko also came close to netting on his debut when Jesus and Granit Xhaka switched the ball from right to left, allowing the full-back a shooting opportunity but Vicente Guaita did well to save his deflected effort.
But the Ukrainian would play a significant role in the opening goal on 19 minutes, as we made our pressure pay. Saka floated a corner to the back post to an undetected Zinchenko, who headed the ball back across the area for Martinelli to nod past Guaita from close range and register the first goal of the Premier League season.
Rambo to the rescue
We continued to look comfortable throughout the remainder of the first half without creating many opportunities, but the same could be said for the hosts who took 41 minutes to carve out a single decent opportunity, but when they did Aaron Ramsdale had to be in top form to keep it out.
In similar fashion to our opener, Eze’s free-kick was met by Joachim Andersen allowing Edouard a diving header, but our number one produced an instinctive stop to keep it out, and then just before the break, a combination of sliding blocks by William Saliba and Xhaka managed to prevent Eduoard from equalising.
However, the momentum continued to swing and five minutes following the restart, Ramsdale had to be at his best again when Wilfried Zaha slid in Eze one-on-one, but the shot-stopper stayed big and made a great block, and then on the hour mark an Eagles corner caused panic in our box and Gabriel’s sliced clearance required Ramsdale to keep it out.
Saka magic seals it
Our backs were against a wall for a period midway through the second half, and with the Selhurst crowd their normal boisterous selves Palace fancied their chances of grabbing at least a point, but on 84 minutes we grabbed the all-important second goal.
Having found himself in a similar position earlier in the half and screwed well wide, Saka again bolted down the right and took on Nathaniel Clyne, and this time saw his fierce cross clatter off Guehi and beat Guaita to secure victory at the first time of asking this campaign.
We get our home campaign underway against Leicester City on Saturday, August 13, which is followed by a trip to newly-promoted Bournemouth a week later.
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