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    Sunday, March 19, 2023

    Arsenal Thrash Crystal Palace to go Eight Points Clear

    Bukayo Saka once again starred as Arsenal cruised to victory over managerless Crystal Palace to open an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

    With closest challengers Manchester City in FA Cup action, Mikel Arteta’s side took full advantage, bouncing back from their Europa League exit on penalties at the hands of Sporting Lisbon to beat their London rivals 4-1.

    Saka scored twice and set up the opener for Gabriel Martinelli, becoming the first Premier League player this season to reach double figures for both goals and assists.

    Four years on since he swore at his own fans when his substitution in this fixture was cheered, Granit Xhaka’s fine season continued when he turned home the third after the interval.

    Palace, who sacked former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira on Friday, at least got themselves on the scoresheet as Jeffrey Schlupp’s second-half consolation under caretaker manager Paddy McCarthy ended a near seven-hour scoreless run.

    “The desire and the energy that we put in right from the beginning impressed me most,” Arsenal manager Arteta told BBC Sport.

    “We were really determined and focused and left Thursday in the past. After playing 120 minutes, they have to come back here and do it again against a team with a lot of needs.

    “Palace have not got the results lately but they have be very tough to beat. But we were dominant and deserved to win the game. Today, in the box when we had those openings, we defined the game in the right way.”

    Goalscorer Martinelli added: “Very happy, we needed that win and as I always say, we approach the games as a final and we did that today.

    “It was a good goal, good pass from B [Bukayo Saka]. I don't know if it was to me or someone else but it was a good finish with my weak foot, good goal.

    “Saka is a great guy, not just him but the whole team. We are a family but Saka is great and I just love to play with him.”

    Palace started well enough and were inches away from taking the lead as a deflected Wilfried Zaha strike came back off a post, the ball catching goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale on the back before squirming wide.

    Martin Odegaard had Arsenal’s first attempt on goal, the captain’s effort palmed away by Joseph Whitworth, the 19-year-old making just his second senior appearance for the Eagles.

    After a slow start, the league leaders broke the deadlock through Martinelli – the man whose saved penalty cost Arsenal in their shoot-out loss to Sporting.

    Zaha was caught ball-watching as Ben White nipped in ahead of him, playing in Saka, whose cross was controlled and finished well by Martinelli.

    The hosts were now well on top, the combination of White, Saka and Odegaard causing Palace all sorts of problems on the right.

    Thomas Partey headed a free-kick wide and Odegaard screwed another strike past a post as Arsenal pushed for a second before the break.

    The goal came courtesy of Saka, who collected a smart pass from White before finishing low past Whitworth as a VAR check confirmed the England winger was onside.

    Saka then saw an effort cleared off the line as Arsenal started the second half in the same dominant manner as they ended the first.

    Any Palace threat came through Zaha and he stung the palms of Ramsdale as the visitors looked to half the arrears.

    Instead, they fell further behind as Xhaka exchanged passes with Leandro Trossard before finishing from close range, although Schlupp pulled one back as he finished from a corner.

    Zaha dribbled a shot across Ramdale’s goal and wide as they went in search of an unlikely second but once again they were caught out at the other end.

    Kieran Tierney, who replaced Oleksandr Zinchenko after Schlupp’s goal, had far too much space on the left and crossed for Saka to turn home a brilliant first-time finish.

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