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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

LONDON - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored twice as Arsenal recorded a 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace yesterday that took them back to the top of the English Premier League.

Making his first league start since the season's opening day, Oxlade-Chamberlain scored both goals in the second half to send Arsenal two points above Manchester City, who host third-placed Chelsea early this morning.

The result put Arsene Wenger's side back into winning ways after the 2-2 draw at Southampton that cost them top spot, while Palace were left one place above the relegation zone after a first defeat in three league games.

With Oxlade-Chamberlain in central midfield alongside Mikel Arteta, Arsenal quickly assumed control at the Emirates Stadium, but they struggled to make inroads against Tony Pulis's well-drilled Palace.

The visitors had new goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey on the bench, but their current number one Julian Speroni seemed determined to stake a claim to the jersey.

He produced two excellent saves to thwart first Nacho Monreal and then Laurent Koscielny, before bravely diving at Bacary Sagna's feet shortly before halftime.

It had been a disciplined and hard-working display from Palace but, two minutes into the second half, they fell behind.

Former Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh allowed Oxlade-Chamberlain to run into the box behind him and, when the scheming Santi Cazorla picked out the England man with a dinked pass, he coolly lifted the ball over Speroni.

Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was quickly called into action at the other end, saving a header from Cameron Jerome at point-blank range, but Oxlade-Chamberlain's second goal in the 73rd minute settled the game.

The powerful 20-year-old, nicknamed "The Ox", played a slick one-two with Olivier Giroud before cutting into the Palace box from the left and letting fly with a low drive that Speroni could not keep out.