SELHURST: Arsenal was eager to keep alive their faint hopes of qualifying for European competition next season.
Stoppage-time goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe spoiled Roy Hodgson’s final home match in charge of Crystal Palace and helped Arsenal secure a potentially vital 3-1 win in south London.
It was revealed on Tuesday that the 73-year-old would depart Selhurst Park at the end of the season and when Christian Benteke headed home midway through the second half, the Eagles looked poised to end on a positive note with the score level.
Gunners attackers Martinelli and Pepe had other ideas and the late efforts by the duo kept the Gunners in the race for European football next term ahead of their final clash of the campaign.
Both sets of players formed a guard of honour in a mark of respect to Hodgson, who shook the hand of opposite number Mikel Arteta before he acknowledged the 6,500 spectators in attendance.
It was only the second time this season Palace had played in front of a crowd at Selhurst Park and they were almost treated to an early goal, but Gary Cahill headed wide from a James McCarthy cross.
The major negative for the home side was the absence of Ebere Eze, who had sustained a serious injury in training this week which is set to sideline him for a lengthy period of time.
While a large portion of the focus was on the Eagles, Arsenal was eager to keep alive their faint hopes of qualifying for European competition next season with a fourth Premier League win in a row.
Hodgson received warm applause an hour before the match got underway when he came out to do his pre-match media duties and a thunderous reception greeted him before kick-off.
Eight minutes later and he nearly had another but Leno thwarted his close-range shot following Wilfried Zaha’s cross. Arteta had seen enough and Martin Odegaard and Martinelli were introduced with the Gunners realistically requiring a win to remain in the hunt for Europe.
Jordan Ayew and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failed to make the most of good openings in the 83rd minute before Arsenal ruined Hodgson’s Selhurst Park farewell.
Odegaard found Martinelli in the area, who finished smartly past Vicente Guaita from close range in the first minute of stoppage time, and with the last kick of the game Pepe slotted home to seal the points for the visitors.
While Arsenal’s quest for Europe continued, Hodgson bowed out from Selhurst Park for one last time to a rapturous ovation following a presentation at the end of the match.
Mikel Arteta hails the new Pepe on a night when Arsenal’s Europa League hopes finally came to an end.
Arteta had this to say on Pepe, “He’s changed his mindset. He wants to work, he wants to be the best. When that happens with the talent he has, I think it’s a really good mixture.”