Arsenal 1 (Ozil 80) – 1 Everton (Deulofeu 84)
Man of the Match - Ross Barkley (Everton)
Arsenal were held to a draw by a magnificent Everton side in a pulsating Premier League clash at the Emirates. On the bounce of 4 wins, which included 9 unanswered goals. The win does mean Arsenal have extended their lead at the top of the table by 5 points, but missed an opportunity to go 7 points clear of second placed Liverpool.
After the 2-0 win over Hull City during the weekend, in which the manager made several changes, there were returns to the starting lineup for Kieran Gibbs, Olivier Giroud, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere in place of Nacho Monreal, Niklas Bendtner, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky.
Everton, on the high of having beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford in midweek, made no changes to their side. The visiting side started in earnest, with Kevin Mirallas’ cross past Arsenal’s box went unchallenged.
Everton were looking the more confident side, with the matchwinner at Old Trafford, Bryan Oviedo constantly running rings around Carl Jenkinson. Sylvain Distin then saw his shot go wide, before Mirallas wasted a good chance by shooting high above the post.
Arsenal slowly were looking to get into the game, and towards the end of the half a Santi Cazorla cross across the goal, was nearly met by Kieran Gibbs. The Belgian duo of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas were causing plenty of problems for Arsenal’s defence, but Laurent Koscielny was at his impressive best yet again.
Arsenal were denied twice on clear cut chances, first when Wilshere released Giroud, which was called offside, and then Ramsey who was set clear, but a clean shaven Tim Howard pulled off a fine save.
Arsenal looked more confident in the second half, and could have had a penalty when it appeared as though Oviedo had handled the ball. Television replays showed it had struck his shoulder. Moments later, a Kieran Gibbs shot whizzed past the goal.
A right wing cross from Mesut Ozil, was cut back by Jack Wilshere, but Cazorla failed to direct his header properly. Everton then looked to hit back, making the game a humdinger, with Steven Pienaar forcing Szczesny into a good save. Minutes later, a Gibbs cross was met by Aaron Ramsey, who turned and attempted to shoot, but Howard managed to spurn away the danger.
Arsene Wenger decided to throw caution to the wind, bringing on Theo Walcott, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky, taking off Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere. Flamini almost had an instant impact, when his first time shot just grazed the post.
Szczesny was forced into another save by Mirallas, before Arsenal finally struck the first goal of the match. Tomas Rosicky played in a beautiful long ball into Walcott, who headed it across goal. Olivier Giroud missed it completely, under pressure from Phil Jagielka, but Ozil was on hand to poke the ball into the roof of the net. It was a goal that signified a team that was willing to fight it out to score goals.
However, when it seemed like the winner had been scored, and the Gunners would definitely take a massive 7 point lead, Everton struck. Roberto Martinez had just sent on Gerard Delofeu, the 19 year old midfielder on loan from Barcelona. The youngster beat the attention of Gibbs to shoot past Szcesny to make it 1-1.
Everton could even have won it, had it not been for Szczesny, who smothered a pass, with Lukaku looking to capitalize. Arsenal poured forward in the last few minutes, with a super 25 yard volley from Olivier Giroud thumping the post.
All in all, a draw was a fair result for both sides, who had worked extremely hard on the night. It has to be said that fatigue might be playing in, with Aaron Ramsey looking a bit quiet. With a near fit squad, and Lukas Podolski close to return, Arsenal should look forward to a gruelling month with optimism.
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