Arsenal held by Crystal Palace at home amid VAR controversy

Unai Emery's Arsenal fell apart in the second half of the Europa League final

LONDON (Reuters) – Crystal Palace came back from 2-0 down against Arsenal to draw 2-2 in an eventful Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday as VAR denied the home side what would have been a late winner from Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

Sokratis managed to pounce on a loose ball from a corner kick late in the game but the goal was overruled for a foul in the buildup from Calum Chambers as he jostled for the ball.

“I didn’t understand the referee and VAR reaction,” Arsenal boss Unai Emery told the BBC. “Last week they didn’t check VAR for a penalty for us (against Sheffield United) but we respect that.

“For me there is no confusion, it’s not a good decision. We deserved to win, we had a good reaction after they equalised, we scored but then they didn’t count it.”

Arsenal took an early 2-0 lead when Sokratis scored from a corner after Palace failed to clear the danger and, 106 seconds later, his centre back partner David Luiz made a run to the far post to tap home from another set piece.

Referee Martin Atkinson then booked Wilfried Zaha for what he perceived to be a dive in the box from a Chambers challenge but VAR intervened and ruled it a penalty, which was put away by midfielder Luka Milivojevic.

“I’m glad for Martin because if, in the pre-VAR days, that hadn’t been given, then… everyone would have said that was a clear penalty,” Palace boss Roy Hodgson said. “I thought it was clear and I’m pleased it got overturned.

“Of course, we got another VAR decision that went our way at the end. There was a lot of pushing going on so I’m glad the right decision was made in the end.”

Palace started the second half the stronger of the two sides and seven minutes after the restart, Jordan Ayew levelled the score with a header at the far post from a James McArthur cross.

Emery then withdrew Granit Xhaka, with the substitution drawing ironic cheers from the home support.

The incensed skipper did not take too kindly to the reaction, cupping his hand to his ear before taking off his shirt and storming down the tunnel amid boos.

“He’s wrong but we are going to speak inside about that situation,” Emery added, refusing to discuss whether the Swiss midfielder would remain the club’s captain. “I want to be calm but, really, he was wrong in this action.”

The game ended on a sour note when Matteo Guendouzi rugby-tackled Zaha to deny Palace a late counter-attack. The players got involved in a mini brawl and the Frenchman received a yellow card.

The result leaves Arsenal in fifth place with just two wins in their last seven games while Palace are a point behind in sixth.