Arsenal top Premier League after 2-1 Toffees triumph
Holly Thackeray | October 24th
Arsenal 2-1 Everton
- Arsenal victory means Gunners snatch Premier League top spot
- Olivier Giroud grabs third goal in as many games
- Everton fought back through Ross Barkley
- Gareth Barry sent off in final minute
On a rainy night in north London, Arsenal illustrated their Premier League title credentials by squeezing past Everton to top the table, at least temporarily, ahead of Sunday’s Manchester derby. The hosts were dominate throughout, but Roberto Martinez’s men did have late chances to nick a point.
Arsenal exploit set-piece savvy
The Toffees took little notice of the Gunners’ early targeting of set-piece dominance, repeatedly being beaten to the ball on several corners, and it was an oversight they paid dearly for not fixing in the first-half.
Surprise starter Olivier Giroud set alarm bells ringing for the Merseyside blues with his effort in the seventh minute, as the Frenchmen rose above a crowd of Everton players to nod just wide.
This troubling Toffees theme continued only moments later, as Gabriel Paulista similarly managed to outwit the Everton backline, but sent his headed chance sailing over.
Arsenal easily had the better chances in the opening 45 minutes, with Alexis Sanchez superbly displaying his all-round ability by stealing the ball back in his own half, before slotting a delicious ball over the top to Giroud, only for the forward to haul down John Stones.
The Chilean supplier then skied his own attempt, after Nacho Monreal’s cross to Giroud was cut out but fell favourably to Sanchez’s twinkling toes.
Finally, the Gunners made attacking inroads, with two goals in as many minutes a sucker-punch for the guests. Mesut Ozil once again proved the inspiration around the 35th minute mark, with a lovely lofted and precise ball to find Giroud, who soared above Everton again to smartly flick the ball with the back of his head and past Tim Howard.
This was then followed up by another deadly delivery, this time from schemer Cazorla, as the Spaniard sent a swerving free-kick into the Toffees box to once again expose their weaknesses. This time Laurent Koscielny was the one to out-jump, out-manoeuvre and nab Arsenal’s second.
Everton were not without their chances though and, in the slippy conditions, almost responded immediately. A brilliant back-heel improvised by Ross Barkley set up a galloping Brendan Galloway, who strode into Arsenal’s area but took just one touch too many, and found the ball hacked away by Koscielny’s last-ditch dive.
The breakthrough did not take long, however, with Barkley proving a goal hero again on the counter. The English attacker’s potshot took a lucky deflection off back-peddling Gabriel to deceive Petr Cech and sent the Toffees into half-time with real hope of revival.
Experienced custodian Howard was easily the most impressive in Everton colours after the break, as the goal-hungry Gunners pegged back their guests. The American post protector was called upon twice in quick succession, first to smother a Sanchez chance, and later requiring quick flexes to bat away Giroud’s lethal low volley.
Gunners dig deep
A Giroud with a point to prove and a place up for grabs is a dangerous Giroud indeed, and the sharpshooter was inches away from bagging a brace and putting the game to bed, mid-way through the second half. Ozil was the orchestrator again, but although Giroud’s blistering strike had the beating of keeper Howard, it fell foul of the cross-bar by a hair’s breadth to bounce back out and allow Everton to breathe again.
The Gunners’ battering of Roberto Martinez’s backline continued, but the Toffees did have a late chance to nick a point through Gerard Deulofeu, but Petr Cech surged out to stop the Spaniard’s shot and preserve his side’s lead. A frantic flurry in Everton’s box lead to a last desperate counter, but the Gunners saw out the scuffle after Gareth Barry saw red in the last minute for a second offence.
Now the jubilant Emirates crowd will eagerly await the result of tomorrow’s Manchester derby, will the London club keep top spot?
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