Crystal Palace 1 Arsenal 2
Steve Coppell saw his Crystal Palace side knocked out of the FA Cup by two
early Arsenal strikes - just hours after being told there's no future as managerfor him at Selhurst Park.
Nicolas Anelka, with an amazing lob after only 68 seconds and Dennis Bergkamp,
with a deflected 28th minute free kick after Palace's Dean Gordon had been sent
off for knocking over the 18-year-old Frenchman on a clear path to goal, won itfor the Gunners despite Bruce Dyer's belligerent reply six minutes later.
And although Palace battled manfully to overturn their dismal home form which
has yet to produce a win in the League, Coppell was in the end thankful for someslapdash Arsenal finishing to escape a rout.
Palace's new owner Mark Goldberg has asked Coppell to switch to a Director of
Football role after he appoints a new manager, with ex-England coach TerryVenables the computer millionaire's preferred choice.
But this fifth round replay showed that whoever takes on the job will have ahuge job keeping Palace in the Premier League.
Arsenal, despite their long injury list, could and should have won by a street
- with substitute Marc Overmars, specially flown back from America on Concorde,
replacing the injured Bergkamp 20 minutes from time, spurning a hat-trick ofopportunities to bury Palace for good and all.
But Highbury boss Arsene Wenger will be happy to have got the better of
Arsenal's stubborn South London rivals for the second time in five days - afterthe two previous meetings this season were goalless.
Arsenal were still without seven first-team regulars in the starting line-up
but it was formidable enough with skipper Adams back from suspension and
Bergkamp recovered from flu. They have not lost to Palace at Selhurst Park in 18years.
And after Anelka's early strike, when he cheekily lobbed keeper Miller after
the Dutchman put him through, the only real surprise was that it took them solong to add a second.
But then referee Martin Bodenham, often criticised for leniency, had no option
but to punish Gordon's body check on Anelka with a red card as the big Frenchteenager was clear on goal in the 28th minute from Luis Boa Morte's neat flick.
Bergkamp's free kick cannoned in off the end of Palace's defensive wall,
leaving Miller helpless and by then Arsenal had created enough chances to makethe rest of the match academic.
But after Lee Dixon's 30 yarder crashed off the top of the crossbar, Boa Morte
and Anelka both failed to beat the keeper in one-on-ones and such was the
dominance Arsenal achieved, it came as a major shock when Palace forced theirway back into it.
Martin Keown's mistake allowed Dyer a low strike and although keeper Alex
Manninger impressively pushed it away at full stretch, the young Austrian could
not get through a crowd of bodies to deal with the subsequent corner and after
Herman Hreidarsson's header was blocked, Dyer stabbed in his eighth of theseason.
Even then Bergkamp could have increased Arsenal's two-goal cushion almost
immediately but dragged his shot on the run just wide of the far post afterbeing set up by the marauding Patrick Vieira.
And there was just a hint of panic in Arsenal's defence when Palace tried tomake the most of that latest escape.
Bergkamp, petulantly standing in the way of Simon Rodger free kick, was among
four players booked in a matter of minutes just before the break while Martin
Keown and Dyer being shown the yellow card after a push-and-shove and David
Platt collected his fifth caution of the season for a foul and now faces atwo-match ban.
But Dyer wasted Palace's best chance of forcing extra time when, with 17
minutes left he clipped his shot tamely into the grateful Manninger's arms afterslipping Arsenal's offside trap.
Crystal Palace: Miller, Edworthy, Gordon, Roberts (Emblen 82),
Dyer, Brolin (Linighan 82), Rodger, Smith (McKenzie 67), Ismael,
Subs Not Used: Nash, Ginty.
Sent Off: Gordon (26).
Booked: Dyer, Ismael.
Goals: Dyer 35.
Arsenal: Manninger, Dixon, Vieira, Adams, Platt, Anelka,
Bergkamp (Overmars 67), Keown, Upson (Crowe 82), Boa Morte,
Subs Not Used: Lukic, Rankin, Vernazza.
Booked: Platt, Keown, Bergkamp, Upson.
Goals: Anelka 2, Bergkamp 28.
Ref: M J Bodenham (East Looe).