Bukayo Saka scored two goals to lead Arsenal to victory over Crystal Palace, moving away by eight points
Bukayo Saka shone again as Arsenal cruised to victory over Crystal Palace without a coach to open up an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
With Manchester City’s closest rivals in the FA Cup, Mikel Arteta’s team took full advantage, returning from their Europa League exit at the hands of Sporting Lisbon to defeat their London rivals 4-1.
Saka scored twice and set up Gabriel Martinelli’s opener, becoming the first player in the Premier League this season to reach double figures for both goals and assists.
Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka celebrate with Granit Xhaka and Kieran Tierney (John Walton/PA)
Four years after he swore at his home crowd when his substitute was hailed in this match, Granit Xhaka’s impressive season continued when he made his third home run after half-time.
Palace, who sacked former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira on Friday, managed to at least score after Jeffrey Schlupp’s consolation in the second half under interim coach Paddy McCarthy ended a run that lasted nearly seven hours without goals.
Takehiro Tomiyasu and William Saliba were both sidelined by injury for the hosts, with Ben White and Rob Holding entering defence.
Palace were inches away from taking the lead as Wilfried Zaha’s deflected strike bounced off the post, and the ball hit goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale on the back before hitting wide.
Martin Odegaard was Arsenal’s first attempt at goal, and the captain’s attempt was saved by 19-year-old Joseph Whitworth, who was making only his second appearance for the Eagles.
After a slow start, the league leaders broke the deadlock through Martinelli – the man whose penalty save cost Arsenal in their penalty shootout loss to Sporting.
Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli breaks the deadlock (John Walton/Penn)
Zaha was caught watching the ball as White ran ahead of him, playing in Saka, whose cross was controlled by Martinelli.
The hosts were now on top, and a combination of White, Saka and Odegaard caused Bales many problems on the right.
Thomas Partey headed a free kick into the net and Odegaard fired another shot past the post as Arsenal pushed for a second just before half-time.
The goal was courtesy of Saka, who collected a clever pass from White before tipping low to Whitworth as a VAR check confirmed the England winger was just behind.
Then Saka saw a try cleared off the line as Arsenal started the second half in the same dominant fashion in which they finished the first.
Any threat to the palace seemed to come through Zaha and sting Ramsdale’s palms as the visitors looked forward to half the arrears.
Instead, they would fall further behind when Xhaka exchanged passes with Leandro Trossard before finishing from close range, although Schlupp would drop back when he finished from a corner kick.
Zaha volleyed a shot across the Ramdel goal and wide as they went forward looking for an unlikely second, but again they were promptly caught at the other end.
Kieran Tierney, who replaced Oleksandr Zinchenko after Schlupp’s goal, had plenty of space on the left and crossed for Saka to bring home a brilliant finish for the first time.
Arteta changed his pack in the closing stages to give much needed minutes to his players as they watched the dying minutes to open up a healthy lead before the international break.
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