Belfast Telegraph

We missed big chance but top-four fate still in our hands: Emery

Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 3

On target: Christian Benteke celebrates scoring against Arsenal
On target: Christian Benteke celebrates scoring against Arsenal

By Nick Purewal

Unai Emery conceded Arsenal blew a "big opportunity" in the race for the Premier League's top four with their 3-2 home loss to Crystal Palace.

Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and James McArthur all found the net as Palace stunned the Gunners at the Emirates yesterday.

Roy Hodgson's men sealed an eighth league win on the road to leave Arsenal in fourth on goal difference alone and unsure of securing Champions League football next term.

Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck for Arsenal but the Gunners never looked like pulling off any kind of rescue act, leaving manager Emery counting the cost in defeat.

"It was very frustrating because it was a big opportunity," said Emery. "But we've had plenty of big opportunities before, plenty of key moments, that give us the opportunity to achieve our first target, to play in the Champions League next year.

"But yes, we lost a big opportunity. It doesn't change our idea or plan for the next match. It's in our hands. I still have confidence though and I want to be positive.

"We can be proud of the whole season. Today we're frustrated but tomorrow we have to stand up and prepare for Wednesday's trip to Wolves."

Shkodran Mustafi produced a string of mistakes on a day to forget in the Easter sun in north London, but boss Emery refused to lay the blame at the feet of the Germany defender.

"We cannot speak about the player usually," said Emery. "I prefer to speak about the consistency over the season. And today also against players like Benteke, Zaha, you can suffer more than in different situations.

"If we were better in set-pieces we could have won and also if we controlled possession, especially in the attacking third.

"I think Mustafi has been consistent (across the season)."

Arsenal made seven changes from Thursday's Europa League win in Napoli, with Emery insisting he had to rotate to keep his players fresh.

"We changed because we needed to protect the players," said Emery. "We lost but we could also have lost with different players."

Palace boss Hodgson hailed his side's impressive victory, admitting Belgium striker Benteke can be boosted by his first goal in almost a year.

"That was a very satisfying performance," said Hodgson. "A draw here is a result, so to get a win here is very satisfying.

"We were good value for our three goals because we carried that threat with two front players. Christian is more than just a goalscorer, his all-round performance was fantastic.

"If he'd played that way and someone else had scored, I wouldn't be saying we should berate him. But it is true that front players need goals and I'm sure it will be a weight off his mind.

"But in tandem with Wilf he produced a great performance."

ARSENAL: Leno, Mustafi, Koscielny, Mavropanos (Iwobi, 46 mins), Jenkinson (Maitland-Niles, 46 mins), Guendouzi, Elneny (Torreira, 68 mins), Kolasinac, Ozil, Lacazette, Aubameyang. Unused subs: Cech, Mkhitaryan, Monreal, Nketiah.

CRYSTAL PALACE: Guaita, Wan Bissaka, Kelly, Dann, Ward, McArthur, Milivojevic, Kouyate, Meyer (Townsend, 80 mins), Benteke (Ayew, 78 mins), Zaha. Unused subs: Van Aanholt, Hennessey, Batshuayi, Sako, Riedewald.

Referee: Jonathan Moss (County Durham).

Man of the match: Wilfried Zaha

Match rating: 8/10

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