Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

Nicolas Pepe's Late Goal Against Crystal Palace Keeps Arsenal's European Hopes Alive

Arsenal need a win on the final day of the Premier League season to have a chance of claiming a place in Europe next season.

Nicolas Pepe's Late Goal Against Crystal Palace Keeps Arsenal's European Hopes Alive
Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe is challenged by Crystal Palace's Gary Cahill during the English Premier League match at Selhurst Park in London, England on Wednesday. -

Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe scored dramatic injury-time goals as Arsenal beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Selhurst Park to keep their hopes of European football next season alive. (More Football News)

Brazilian teenager Martinelli came off the bench to rescue his side, who are ninth on 58 points and remain in with a chance of a top-seven finish with one game left of the Premier League campaign.

Christian Benteke's diving header had cancelled out Pepe's opener and put Palace on course to earn an impressive draw in Roy Hodgson's final home game as manager.

But Arsenal's attacking quality shone through as Martinelli tipped the game back in their favour before Pepe added a third with a superb individual effort.

Arsenal dominated a heated first half but had to withstand dangerous Palace breaks, Benteke heading narrowly over the crossbar moments before he teed up Jeffrey Schlupp for a fierce shot that Bernd Leno parried away.

But the hosts fell behind 10 minutes before the interval when Bukayo Saka linked up well with Kieran Tierney, whose cross was volleyed into the net from six yards by the leaping Pepe.

Just after the hour mark, Palace won a free-kick that Andros Townsend swung in from the left and Benteke met it with a diving header that beat Leno low to his right.

Palace were pushing for a winner in the dying minutes when Martin Odegaard crossed for fellow substitute Martinelli to lift the ball over goalkeeper Vicente Guaita and poke it into the net from close range.

Pepe then rubbed salt in Palace's wounds, dribbling through the hosts' penalty area before sending a low drive into the far corner of the net to secure a result that flattered Arsenal.

What does it mean? Arteta prepares for big final day

The last time the Gunners failed to qualify for either of the two major European competitions was 1995-96, and anything other than a win against Brighton and Hove Albion is likely to see them miss out again. Even a win might not be enough as the Gunners jostle with three teams above them – bitter rivals Tottenham, Everton and West Ham – with sixth leading to a Europa League spot and seventh place earning passage to the Europa Conference League play-off round.  

Pepe at the double

Only Alexandre Lacazette (20) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (19) have been involved in more goals for Arsenal in all competitions this season than Nicolas Pepe, who took his tally to 19 – 14 goals and five assists.

Schlupp slips up 

This was the first time the Eagles have lost their final home game of a Premier League season and they were at times overrun in midfield, where Schlupp won just two of his eight duels .

Key Opta facts

- Arsenal have won four consecutive Premier League games under Mikel Arteta for the very first time; indeed, the Gunners have also won four consecutive away matches in the competition for the first time since October 2016.
- Following his brace, Pepe has scored in back-to-back Premier League appearances for the first time in his Arsenal career.
- Benteke has scored 10 Premier League goals for Crystal Palace this season, the first time he has reached double figures in the competition since 2016-17 (15).

What's next?

The curtain falls on Hodgson's four-year tenure as his side take on Liverpool at Anfield, while Arsenal are at home to Brighton on the final day.


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