Gunners edge spirited Everton to regain third place in table
After Arsenal saw Liverpool continue their remarkable run in the Premier League by beating champions Manchester City just before kick-off to draw them level on points with the north Londoners, they knew they had to defeat Everton.
Both the Gunners and Toffees came into this match after contrasting fortunes in the Champions League and Europa League respectively, with the former losing at home to Monaco, and the latter easily seeing off Young Boys over two legs.
Arsenal in the end came through this fixture with Everton, by beating them 2-0, but only just, as a late goal from sub Tomas Rosicky killed off the game after Olivier Giroud’s first half strike. The win puts them up to third again, while the Toffees slip to 14th.
It was a fairly uneventful opening 15 minutes at the Emirates, but Romelu Lukaku had the first good chance, as he forced his way to get onto a long ball, but Gunners keeper David Ospina palmed away the ball before the striker could shoot.
The Toffees were certainly the more impressive in terms of organisation and closing down Arsenal players at first, and the home crowd were frustrated and quiet early on.
But Giroud nearly gave them something to cheer about just before the half hour mark, as he beat his marker from a cross, only to head wide from close range. While the Frenchman should’ve scored, it seemingly spurred the Gunners on more, and they were very much on the front foot until half time.
Everton still threatened on the counter, though, and Lukaku went on a decent run, before being brilliantly tackled by Brazilian Gabriel, who was making his first Premier League start.
Giroud did finally get his side off the mark, after a cool volleyed finish straight from a corner with his weaker right foot. Replays seemed to show that the ball came off the Frenchman’s shin.
Just before the break, Santo Cazorla had a decent chance from outside of the area, but he couldn’t find the corner of the goal and his effort was tipped over the bar by Tim Howard.
After the break, Everton started on top, and young former Leeds United youth player Luke Garbutt sent in a wonderful curling free-kick that nearly caught out Ospina, but the Colombian pushed it out for a corner. Gareth Barry, meanwhile, despite his advancing years attempted an audacious scissor kick, that went just over the bar.
Roberto Martinez’s men continued to go forward and gained a number of corners, but Arsenal weathered the storm eventually.
The hosts went close to doubling their lead soon after, again through Giroud, but his shot was blocked by the arm of Phil Jagielka, who seemingly knew nothing about it.
France forward Giroud was involved again, and played a nice one-two with Cazorla on the edge of the box, but the Spaniard sent his shot just wide.
At the other end of the pitch, meanwhile, Lukaku had yet another chance, and this time got more on the ball, but his shot was tipped over.
Substitute Aaron Lennon came close for the Toffees too, as Seamus Coleman found the Spurs loanee in the area, but his shot was right at Ospina.
Mesut Ozil, who was largely anonymous throughout the game, was played though on goal by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with 10 minutes to go, but his lazy effort was blocked again by Jakielka.
That miss could have haunted Arsenal, as minutes later Garbutt sent in another wonderful cross, but once again Ospina was alert and prevented Lukaku from latching onto the ball. The keeper bravely punched away but hurt himself in the process.
Ozil later made amends, and brilliantly picked out late replacement Rosicky, whose shot was again met by Jagielka, but instead it deflected into the back of the net.
The Czech veteran had a other effort deep into extra time, but it was straight at Howard.
Arsenal’s victory is the perfect reply to their 3-1 loss to Monaco, and they now go one point above Manchester United, which puts them just four behind Man City. Everton, meanwhile, are six above the relegation zone.