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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 November, 2004, 19:11 GMT
Crystal Palace 1-1 Arsenal

Wayne Routledge is tackled by Ashley Cole
Arsenal surrendered their place at the top of the Premiership after being held by Crystal Palace.

Thierry Henry put Arsenal ahead from close range after Cesc Fabregas and Freddie Ljungberg had combined.

But Palace hit back almost immediately, when Aki Riihilahti ghosted through the Gunners defence to volley in Vassilis Lakis' precise cross.

Lakis should have scored the winner for Palace a minute later but blasted the ball over the bar from six yards.

With Arsenal in the middle of a run that had seen them win just once in their last five matches, Palace must have felt here was a chance to earn their first home win against the Gunners since 1979.

But judging by their tactics, they seemed more likely to take one point rather than three, as in the whole of the first half they did not manage a single effort at goal.

However, the hosts were highly successful at blunting the Arsenal attack.

Superb organisation and a gritty determination, particularly from the hard-working Aki Riihilahti, restricted the visitors to long range strikes, and few of these troubled Gabor Kiraly.

And that was despite Palace being forced into a defensive change as Gonzalo Sorondo limped out of his debut after just 24 minutes.

On came Mikele Leigertwood, and he soon assumed his position, along with his team-mates, deep in his own half as Arsenal continued to attack.

But Robert Pires, Jose Antionio Reyes and Henry could not produce the kind of quality needed to beat Kiraly from distance.

Henry came closest, but his low drive skidded inches past the post.

In a rare foray into the Arsenal half, Andy Johnson nearly profited when he harried Jens Lehmann, who was relieved to see his clearance rebound off the striker to safety.

The pattern of the first half was repeated for the first 15 minutes of the second, until suddenly the game exploded into life.

Arsenal finally got in behind the Palace defence, thanks to a neatly worked move involving Fabregas and Ljungberg and Henry scored with a scruffy tap-in.

If Arsenal thought that was game over, Palace had other ideas and two minutes later, they exposed their opponents recent defensive frailty.

Lakis stormed down the right wing and crossed into the centre for the impressive Riihilahti to restore parity.

It should have been an even better scoreline for Palace, but Lakis produced the miss of the season just over a minute later when he scooped the ball over the bar from six yards.

The game was suddenly stretched and now both sides seemed equally keen to go for the winner.

Arsenal substitute Robin van Persie was denied by a fantastic save by Kiraly.

At the other end last-ditch defending from Arsenal stopped Palace from scoring a breakaway goal.

Iain Dowie's men will be pleased with the draw but will look back and rue that miss from Lakis that should have given them two more points.


Crystal Palace: Kiraly, Boyce, Sorondo (Leigertwood 24), Popovic, Granville, Routledge (Lakis 52), Riihilahti, Hughes, Watson, Kolkka (Freedman 80), Johnson.
Subs Not Used: Speroni, Torghelle.

Goals: Riihilahti 65.

Arsenal: Lehmann, Lauren, Cygan, Toure, Cole, Ljungberg (Bergkamp 72), Vieira, Fabregas (Flamini 81), Pires (Van Persie 72), Reyes, Henry.
Subs Not Used: Senderos, Almunia.

Booked: Cygan.

Goals: Henry 63.

Att: 26,193

Ref: M Dean (Wirral).




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