Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal's title hopes over after Crystal Palace flop, admits Arsene Wenger

Arsenal 1-1 Crystal Palace

By Matt Gatward

Arsene Wenger has admitted that his side's title dream is over and that Arsenal are now in the thick of the battle to qualify for next season's Champions League after they dropped two points at home to Crystal Palace yesterday.

Arsenal looked to be on their way to victory after Alexis Sanchez's first-half goal but the Gunners conceded a late equaliser when Yannick Bolasie's strike buzzed past Petr Cech and into the corner of the home net.

"We are very, very disappointed," Wenger said.

"It is not pleasant. We had 70 per cent of the ball but didn't do enough with it.

"We didn't play with enough freedom and got caught with a rare shot on goal from Palace.

"They defended deep and well and hit us on the break. It is very frustrating.

"I am not in the mood to dream about the championship.

"I am in the mood to repair the mental damage and prepare for the next game.

"Everyone behind us is playing well and winning games. Our fight now is to remain in the top four."

Wenger denied that the defeat was due to a lack of leaders - an oft-used charge against this Arsenal team.

"Today is not about leadership," Wenger said.

"It was about scoring the second goal and stopping their goal. That is the regret of the day.

"They have players who can take advantage on the counter-attack. But they didn't come out - even at 1-0.

"Usually we create a lot of chances but not here - despite the possession.

"We didn't play with enough pace.

"We lacked sharpness, some confidence in our head after the result at West Ham.

"You have to sometimes win 1-0 and today was one of those days.

"We need to stick together and do our best until the end of the season."

Cech, back in the side in place of David Ospina, was untroubled all afternoon only to let Bolasie's strike creep inside his near post towards the end.

The goalkeeper said: "We should have seen the game off.

"This is two dropped points. They managed to get a counter-attack and hit it on the floor, the ball skidded fast, I got a bit of a touch.

"We need to win all the remaining games and we will see what will be the outcome of it."

Alan Pardew, the Palace manager, was delighted.

"In the first-half we had a game-plan, but we should have done better with our passing," he said.

"But we certainly knew that we could grow into the game. And we knew the substitutes could change the game and they did.

"We could have won it. There was an unbelievable run by Wilf Zaha and he could have set up (Emmanuel) Adebayor to finish the game off.

"You can exploit that last part of the game if you're still in it towards the end because Arsenal overcommit at times.

"I admire that in them."

With trips to Old Trafford in the League on Wednesday and the FA Cup semi-final against Watford at Wembley next weekend to come for Palace, Pardew was delighted with Bolasie's late goal.

"He looked completely different after the goal," the manager said. "It gave him a shot of confidence.

"That's great for us. He needs confidence and he's so important to us so that was a really significant moment."

Pardew hopes that the point will be enough to ensure Palace's Premier League safety - they are now nine points above Sunderland.

"It will be difficult for both teams below us to catch us now," he said.

Arsenal next host West Brom on Thursday night before matches with relegation-threatened Sunderland and Norwich, who will be desperate for points as the number of games begin to run out.

Belfast Telegraph


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