Giroud volley helps Arsenal to win
Olivier Giroud's stunning volley helped Arsenal battle to a 2-1 Barclays Premier League win at Crystal Palace.
The Gunners produced the required response from their opening day defeat at home by West Ham with a determined display at Selhurst Park, where German playmaker Mesut Ozil delivered a stand-out performance.
The German's floated cross was smashed home by Giroud on 16 minutes, and although defender Joel Ward drilled in a 25-yard equaliser before the break, a deflected header from Alexis Sanchez in off Damien Delaney proved enough for a hard-earned victory.
Manager Arsene Wenger had opted to start Sanchez, the Chile forward only just back from an extended summer break following the Copa America.
It was Sanchez who should have put the Gunners ahead on seven minutes following a lightning break.
Francis Coquelin fed Ozil down the left, and he in turn released Sanchez into the Palace penalty area.
The Chile forward's first touch was heavy, pushing him wide, with Ward recovering to block his shot before James McArthur was back on the line to boot away the goal-bound follow-up.
Arsenal did take the lead on 16 minutes with a superb goal from Giroud.
Ozil dispossessed Ward on the left, looked up and floated a ball across to the penalty area.
Giroud arched backwards before the 6ft 3in France striker dispatched a left-foot volley of the highest order into the bottom corner.
Arsenal remained on the offence, with Sanchez's low, angled drive saved at full stretch by Alex McCarthy before being hacked away in the six-yard box.
Palace, though, were level on 28 minutes with another fine goal.
Patient build-up saw the ball worked across to the left of the Arsenal box, where Yannick Bolasie chested the ball to McArthur who laid it off to Ward, some 25 yards out.
The defender then drilled a low shot into the far corner, just out of Petr Cech's reach.
Arsenal looked reassert their dominance before half-time, with Aaron Ramsey's near-post flick forcing McCarthy into a smart save.
Palace came close to taking the lead at the start of the second half when Connor Wickham got ahead of Laurent Koscielny to turn Wilfried Zaha's right-wing cross against the near post.
It was Arsenal who eventually went 2-1 ahead on 55 minutes.
Hector Bellerin's deep cross from the Palace right was headed back down goalwards by a huge leap from Sanchez, and the ball cannoned into the net off Eagles captain Delaney.
The Palace fans were in uproar when Francis Coquelin, who had been booked in the first half, clattered into McArthur right in front of the referee, but Lee Mason decided against issuing a second yellow card.
Wenger was taking no further risks with the French midfielder, as he was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on 64 minutes.
Aaron Ramsey could have made the closing stages more comfortable, but he drilled over after being teed up by another superb chipped pass from Ozil.
In stoppage time, Oxlade-Chamberlain was denied by a smart save from McCarthy after a breakaway down the right.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"#Giroud oooooooff! That's been on the cards...arsenal been getting through palace far too often from the start....techniiiiiiique!" - Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) on Giroud's goal.
Alex McCarthy: 7 (out of 10)
Joel Ward: 8
Scott Dann: 7
Damien Delaney: 5
Pape Souare: 5
James McArthur: 7
Yohan Cabaye: 6
Yannick Bolasie: 7
Jason Puncheon: 6
Wilfried Zaha: 6
Connor Wickham: 5
Jordon Mutch: 5
Lee Chung-yong: 6
Patrick Bamford: 6
Petr Cech: 6
Hector Bellerin: 7
Per Mertesacker: 6
Laurent Koscielny: 5
Nacho Monreal: 5
Santi Cazorla: 7
Francis Coquelin: 5
Aaron Ramsey: 7
Alexis Sanchez: 8
Mesut Ozil: 9
Olivier Giroud: 8
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7
Mikel Arteta: 5
Kieran Gibbs: 5
Mesut Ozil: The German was a class apart at Selhurst Park, dazzling with a number of exquisite passes including the assist for Giroud's opening goal. Ozil has struggled for consistency since arriving in the Premier League but this was one of his most impressive performances in an Arsenal shirt.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Giroud's goal: Giroud opened his account for the season in some style as Ozil floated over an inviting cross and the Frenhcman launched himself into the air, before directing an acrobatic volley into the corner with his left foot.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Arsene Wenger will be relieved to have seen his side bounce back from their shock opening day defeat to West Ham but there were enough chinks in Arsenal's defensive armour to suggest there is work to do if the Gunners are to win the title this year. Pardew's side arguably deserved a draw but they were too open and allowed their opponents too much freedom to attack.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Coquelin was fortunate not to be sent off at the end of the first half after he pushed over Wilfried Zaha to stop a counter-attack. Referee Lee Mason, however, spared the midfielder a second yellow card, much to the dismay of both Pardew and the Palace fans.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Crystal Palace v Aston Villa (Premier League, Saturday, 22 August)
Arsenal v Liverpool (Premier League, Monday 24 August)
Giroud thought there were aspects Arsenal could improve upon but admitted collecting the first three-point haul of the season, after defeat to West Ham last week, was their main objective.
"Before the game we really needed the three points to bounce back after the performance at home when we lost against West Ham," he told Sky Sports 1.
"We really wanted to play our game even if we won this afternoon, we could have killed the game before but it was nice for the suspense."
Giroud accepts the Gunners were always likely to face criticism after their season-opening defeat but believes they proved their credentials as title challengers by bouncing back against Palace.
He said: "You always get criticised when you lose, especially at home. We said at the beginning of the championship that we want more, we want to win the league and join the title race.
"When you say that you have to face expectations, and it was a bad performance from us.
"Even if we lost last week, the most important thing in football is to bounce back the week after and keep your faith in your game and that's what we tried to do and succeeded in doing well today.
"We need to keep it up for next Monday against Liverpool. Big, big game."
As for his stunning goal, Giroud added: "It's always nice to score when you're a striker, especially a goal like that first touch. I felt really good physically in the game, it's nice for the future."