Soccer Football – Premier League – Crystal Palace v Arsenal – Selhurst Park, London, Britain – May 19, 2021 Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe scores their third goal Pool via REUTERS/Frank Augstein
May 20, 2021
By Richard Martin
LONDON (Reuters) -Arsenal snatched a 3-1 win away to Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Wednesday thanks to stoppage-time goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe, keeping up their slim hopes of playing European football next season.
The late goals spoiled Roy Hodgson’s final home game after four years in charge of hometown club Palace but delighted Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta, who celebrated a fourth consecutive league win which gives his side a fighting chance of sneaking into the new UEFA Conference League next season.
Arsenal’s record signing Pepe gave the visitors the lead against the run of the play 10 minutes before halftime, stabbing home a Kieran Tierney cross after the fullback had been released by a slick backheel from Bukayo Saka.
Palace levelled in the second half when Christian Benteke headed home an Andros Townsend free kick shortly after the hour mark to give the home fans a moment to savour in their first game back this year and their second since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted live sport in March 2020.
Palace looked the most likely side to go on and take all three points and Wilfried Zaha had a great chance to snatch a late winner but could not dribble past keeper Bernd Leno and Arsenal had the ball in the net moments later with a scrappy finish from substitute Martinelli.
Pepe then clinched the win for Arsenal by slotting low into the net with practically the last kick of the game after bursting through the hosts’ defence.
Arsenal remain ninth in the standings although the win took them on to 58 points with one game left. Palace are 13th on 44 points.
Arsenal host Brighton & Hove Albion in their final game with a chance to qualify for Europe, needing a victory and for Tottenham Hotspur and Everton to fail to win their games, away to Leicester City and Manchester City respectively.
“It was a crucial moment for us as we really wanted to go to the final day with chance of Europe next season,” Arteta told reporters.
“If someone said you have the chance to qualify for Europe a few weeks ago we’d have said ‘you are crazy’ but we’ve got it. Now we have to win our last game and wait and see.”
Outgoing Palace coach Hodgson felt his team deserved better.
“Just before the second goal we were through on goal and hoping for a penalty. That’s how close we were. The two goals were harsh,” he told BBC Sport.
The 73-year-old, who became Palace coach in September 2017 and has kept them in the Premier League since, was given a guard of honour before kick off by both teams in his final home game before stepping down from top-flight management.
“It’s been exceptionally good. I never really envisaged it. From being on the terraces at the age of five and finish managing team at age of 73 — it’s something of a fairytale,” he added.
(Reporting by Richard MartinEditing by Toby Davis)