With the battle for a crucial top-four spot in the EPL heating up, Arsenal and Everton fought to a competitive 0-0 draw at the Emirates on Tuesday night.
The Gunners (33 games played) remain in third place with 60 points, two points clear of Chelsea (31) and Tottenham (32). Then comes Everton (33) in sixth, now with 56 points.
The first half was, in a word, physical. There were 13 total fouls and yellow cards for Darron Gibson and Steven Piennar, and it was slightly surprising that the former wasn't sent off.
Yahoo! Sports' Andy Glockner summed it up perfectly:
It's fairly clear that Everton's rugby team thinks Arsenal is a bit soft.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) April 16, 2013
Unsurprisingly, the chippy play led to very few goal-scoring opportunities. Everton midfielder Ross Barkley had the only shot on target, while there were just seven shots and a whopping zero corners overall.
In the waning moments of the half, however, the Gunners finally looked interested.
In the 42nd minute, Santi Cazorla orchestrated the start of an attack with a wonderful ball down the right side to Aaron Ramsey, who delivered an equally magical cross into the middle to Olivier Giroud, but the Frenchman missed the sitter.
Giroud Chance Missed twitter.com/Arsenal_Suprem…— Gordon (@Arsenal_Supremo) April 16, 2013
Moments later, Cazorla proved again to be in the mood to create, as he beautifully waltzed past his defender in the box, but he was met by a superb tackle from Phil Jagielka.
Not only was the late play encouraging for Arsenal, but as ESPN's Paul Carr pointed out, the Gunners are an awesome second-half team this season:
Arsenal has scored the most 2nd-half goals (40) and conceded the fewest 2nd-half goals (14) this PL season.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) April 16, 2013
The momentum from Arsene Wenger's squad led to an early shot on target from Cazorla, but the rest of the second half provided few chances despite the tempo opening up to more free-flowing play.
In the end, the home team controlled the majority of possession and looked very dangerous down the stretch in the second half, but nothing came of it.
It was a pretty deserving one point all around, as each side played well enough to win.
Santi Cazorla, Arsenal: A
Another EPL match, another world-class performance from Cazorla.
Not only was he the architect of Arsenal's attack, reversing the ball and playing passes into open space to open up ideal scoring opportunities, but he had one of the Gunners' only two shots on target with a masterful blast off the bounce from outside the box.
There wasn't much more the Spaniard could have done.
Olivier Giroud, Arsenal: D
Unforunately for Arsenal, the attacks that Cazorla started usually ended up on the foot of Giroud.
In addition to missing the target from about eight yards in front of the goal, Giroud sent two more fantastic opportunities soaring over Tim Howard in the second half, including one in the 80th minute from right in front of the near post.
Marouane Fellaini, Everton: B+
Fellaini was everywhere.
Who was Everton's Man of the Match?
He linked together Everton in the middle by completing more passes and making far more touches than any of his teammates (according to WhoScored.com), and he was also tremendous in the back, leading the team in interceptions and tackles to go along with several clearances.
Phil Jagielka, Everton: A
Several Everton defenders deserve credit here, as they were able to hold off Arsenal's powerful attack en route to an impressive clean sheet, but Jagielka was at the center of everything.
He made clearances, won nearly every 50/50 ball and made several crucial interceptions and tackles when the Toffees needed them most.