The Telegraph
Monday , February 3 , 2014
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Arsenal return to top

- Reds, west brom split points; Alex nets a brace
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates one of his two goals, in London, on Sunday. (Reuters)

London: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit a second-half double as Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium, on Sunday.

The 20-year-old England midfielder fit again following five months out with a serious knee injury suffered on the first day of the season finally ended Palace’s stubborn resistance when he chipped in a fine pass from Santi Cazorla just after the restart.

After Cameron Jerome’s diving header was saved by Arsenal ’keeper Wojciech Szczesny, Oxlade-Chamberlain struck again to ensure victory when he combined with Olivier Giroud before running clear to beat Julian Speroni after 73 minutes.

Arsenal now move two points above Manchester City while the Eagles remain in a dogfight for survival, just a point above 18th-placed West Ham.

Earlier, a schoolboy howler by defender Kolo Toure cost Liverpool victory when he gifted West Bromwich Albion the equaliser in a 1-1 Premier League draw at The Hawthorns.

Toure’s mistake came after 67 minutes when, under no pressure, he played a loose ball straight across his own 18-yard line to substitute Victor Anichebe standing unmarked on the edge of the box, allowing the former Everton man to fire past Simon Mignolet.

Liverpool had gone ahead in the 24th minute after Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez linked up on the right of the penalty area with the Uruguayan crossing to the far post where Daniel Sturridge tapped home.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger had recalled both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski into the starting XI from Tuesday night’s frustrating 2-2 draw at Southampton, but there was no place in the squad for deadline day loan arrival Kim Kallstrom, the Sweden midfielder out with a back problem.

Palace signed several players late on Friday, so only goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was in the squad, as forward Marouane Chamakh faced his former club.

Arsenal created the first opening on eight minutes when Mesut Ozil’s lofted pass picked out left-back Nacho Monreal on the overlap, but Speroni was out quickly to save. Arsenal finally broke Palace’s resistance with a well-made goal two minutes into the second half.

Cazorla picked up the ball on the right and lofted over a perfectly measured pass into the penalty area where Oxlade-Chamberlain arrived on queue to chip the goalkeeper for his first goal of the season.

Liverpool stayed fourth in the standings with 47 points from 24 games while West Brom climbed from 17th to 16th with 23 points.