Arsenal and Everton played out a tense 1-1 draw at Goodison Park in a physical game which for all the end-to-end couldn’t produce a winning goal in an action-packed second half. Theo Walcott gave the visitors a superb start in the opening seconds before Marouane Fellaini equalised midway through the first period with a calmly taken effort from the edge of the box.
Often this season Arsenal have been accused of starting slowly, it wasn’t the case this evening as the Gunners raced out of the traps to open the scoring before the minute mark.
Theo Walcott gained possession on the halfway line, played a bundled one-two off the retreating Phil Jagielka, fed the ball to Aaron Ramsey (in for the ill Podolski) who slipped it back to the onrushing attacker before a cool, clipped finish nestled in the top corner. There was a slight deflection, but you could almost say it was Henry-esque from the moustachioed Walcott as he claimed his 9th goal in the last 11 games. (1-0)
The perfect start was dampened inside a minute when Laurent Koscielny overstretched, seemed to pull something, and had to be replaced by Kieran Gibbs although with Thomas Vermaelen able to slip into the middle the formation didn’t require unorthodox surgery.
Everton made full use of the flanks to spread play and whip balls into the Arsenal box and Fellaini, as expected, threw his weight around with both Mertesacker and former teammate Arteta hitting the turf. The home side had the better of much of the first 20 minutes without causing Szczesny too much sweat, but just as we looked to be coming back into it, Everton scored.
While it was unsurprising that Fellaini was the source of the goal, it was totally self-inflicted. Ramsey was initially lucky that a stray pass ended back with Szczesny but when Sagna’s hacked clearance flew across the edge of the box the Belgian pounced to curl an early shot low past the Pole. A great finish, but Wenger will know it was a sloppy way to concede. (1-1)
Buoyed by the goal, the Toffees continued to pressure and Nikica Jelavic, following another head on by Fellaini, nearly gave David Moyes’ side the lead only to sky his effort after bamboozling Mertesacker with lovely quick feet on the edge of the box. The game was fast-flowing and physical, Wilshere our standout player, but aside from a wayward effort by Cazorla we didn’t really come close to threatening again before the break.
We started the second period with a bit more bite, both Walcott and Ramsey, who’d interchanged wings in the first half, crossed dangerously but as was the case in the first half Giroud got little change from Jagielka and Diston. After that it was all the home team.
Baines and Jelavic were a constant threat down the Everton left as the game moved end-to-end. Gibbs was forced into a fine last ditch challenge, Steven Pienaar squirmed an effort goalwards which Szczesny had to save down low at the near post, then the Pole was forced to produce a terrific instinctive stop at close range following a Distin header.
Mikel Arteta, having a challenging game in the centre of the park, was also lucky not to concede a penalty during a period in which the ball appeared to have a magnetic attraction to our penalty box To say we were under the cosh is an understatement.
Giroud nearly grabbed a goal against the run of play with a decent header which flew over the bar before Cazorla flummoxed Howard with a slight deflection on a Ramsey pass. The Welshman and Spaniard also had further efforts as we came back into it a bit.
Gervinho came on for the last ten minutes in place of Ramsey and was inches from connecting with a Giroud cross with what would have been his first touch. On the other flank Walcott gallantly tried to stretch the play, Fellaini did likewise for the hosts, but it was very scrappy as fatigue set in and the clock ticked down.
Injury-time saw frantic scrambles in both penalty boxes but the final whistle confirmed a draw which both sides will probably feel was deserved.
If a point didn’t feel like a good result on Saturday, it certainly felt more satisfactory this evening. It was a battling performance from the boys, Vermaelen and Mertesacker in particular were excellent, and when you take into consideration Everton hadn’t lost in their previous ten games at home in the league it puts things in perspective a bit. The unbeaten run continues, we look a bit more solid at the back and it’s two home games in a row up next.