Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top four suffered a potentially fatal blow on Monday as they suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Crystal Palace.
Victory had been imperative for an Arsenal side that had won only two league games since January, but the abject display with Andros Townsend, Yohan Cabaye and Luka Milivojevic all scoring for Palace only heaped more pressure on manager Arsene Wenger.
Sixth-placed Arsenal, who have finished in the top four in 20 consecutive seasons under Wenger, now have 54 points from 30 games — seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who have played a game more.
“It’s damaging of course,” a seemingly dispirited Wenger told Sky Sports when asked about how serious the blow was to their chances of playing in the UEFA Champions League next season. “That’s the most difficult thing for us tonight.”
Rejuvenated Palace, winners of four of their previous five league games under Sam Allardyce, started confidently and opened the scoring when former Tottenham winger Townsend swept the ball home at the end of a smart passing move after 17 minutes.
Palace striker Christian Benteke then had a goal ruled out for offside before Cabaye’s superb curled effort and Milivojevic’s penalty in five second-half minutes completed a miserable night for Wenger at a raucous Selhurst Park.
Palace stay 16th, but now have 34 points from 31 matches, six more than Swansea City, who occupy the final relegation place in 18th and have played a game more.
“All we can do is apologize for that performance,” Arsenal’s Theo Walcott said after Arsenal fans had chanted “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” at their players.
“It was a great three points and a well needed-three points,” Townsend said. “Sam Allardyce has been incredible. He looks to have worked his magic again.”
Arsenal started shakily against in-form Palace and within the first seven minutes Cabaye had wasted a dangerous shooting position before Milivojevic blazed just wide.
Arsenal settled into a period of possession, but Palace were a constant threat on the break and it was a long ball from a goal-kick that yielded the breakthrough.
After Benteke won a header, a neat passing move ended with Townsend stroking home a cross from slipping Wilfried Zaha high past Emiliano Martinez.
In response, Arsenal created a few chances via Alexis Sanchez, but the hosts looked capable of scoring whenever they ran at Arsenal’s fragile defense.
Benteke had a goal ruled out for being offside after the halftime break before Palace added a well-deserved, rapid-fire brace.
First, Cabaye met Zaha’s cross with a superb, first-time effort before the impressive Milivojevic converted from the penalty spot after Townsend was fouled.
AP, BARCELONA, Spain
La Liga’s lack of goal-line technology was on Monday underscored in Real Sociedad’s 3-1 victory over visiting Real Sporting de Gijon.
Sporting goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar dove to block Willian Jose’s third-minute header, managing to knock the ball out as it appeared to cross the goal line. Even in televised repetitions, it was tough to tell.
The referee awarded the goal and Sociedad never looked back in San Sebastian.
“I was inside, but that doesn’t mean the ball was. It was difficult to judge,” Cuellar said. “It was an early goal that conditioned the match.”
Juan Miguel Jimenez put the result beyond doubt in the 27th. Left back Yuri Berchiche added a third before Elderson Echiejile scored Sporting’s consolation goal.
La Liga in January said that it would use video referees next year, following criticism after Barcelona was not awarded a goal that clearly crossed the line in a 1-1 draw at Real Betis Balompie.
La Liga president Javier Tebas then said that video referees would be favored over goal-line technology that is in place in other European leagues due to its lower costs.
While Sociedad climbed back into sixth place and a UEFA Europa League spot, Sporting missed the chance to fight off relegation.
CD Leganes’ loss on Sunday opened the door for Sporting to close on the last team clinging to safety. Instead, they remained in 17th place and five points behind Leganes.
“We knew the importance that this game had, especially given that next week we face Real Madrid,” Cuellar said. “We will try to turn this around, but there isn’t much time left.”
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