Everton dominated Arsenal from start to finish to come away with an easy 3-0 win at Goodison Park on Sunday, closing the gap with the Gunners in the race for the Premier League's fourth and final Champions League ticket.
Steven Naismith opened the scoring as he reacted the quickest to a spilled Romelu Lukaku shot and slotted home, before Lukaku himself would score and excellent goal to double the hosts' lead, dancing past several Arsenal defenders and finishing expertly.
Mikel Arteta would find the back of his own net on the hour mark to make matters even worse for his club, as Arsenal couldn't win for the fourth consecutive match. The gap with Everton is now a single point, but the Toffees still have a game in hand.
Belgian phenom Lukaku proved to be a nightmare matchup for the Gunners' defense, as the athletic striker's combination of speed and strength gave his opponents fits all afternoon. The Chelsea loanee was so powerful in fact, it sparked several comments like the following:
When Romelu Lukaku was 8-years old he threw a paper plane. It's due to land at Heathrow airport tonight at 8:47pm.— Lukuku Facts (@LukakuFact) April 6, 2014
Everton's official Twitter account also congratulated the Belgian on his performance:
Deulofeu is on for Lukaku for the last four minutes or so. Great shift from the big fella.— Everton (@Everton) April 6, 2014
Belgian journalist Kristof Terreur noticed his compatriots have played a vital role for the club this season:
Nacho Monreal filled in for the injured Kieran Gibbs, and Adrian Clarke pointed out the Spaniard was no match for Lukaku:
What are Arsenal doing? Not good. Lukaku v Monreal is a mismatch that needs addressing.— Adrian Clarke (@adrianjclarke) April 6, 2014
Gary Lineker wondered why Lukaku still isn't very popular with the coaching staff of his parent club Chelsea:
Not sure Mourinho fancies Lukaku. Not sure why. Looks the part to me, and still so young.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) April 6, 2014
The Daily Mail's Dominic King praised several of the Toffees' players, including Ross Barkley:
Piers Morgan kept his admiration for the English youngster brief:
Barkley is brilliant. #EFCvAFC— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) April 6, 2014
Barkley didn't start the match, instead coming on as a substitute for Leon Osman after just nine minutes.
Rio Ferdinand seems to think the youngster should be catching the attention of a certain English manager:
Ross Barkley is asking the England manager many a questions with his performances of late - "are you ready for me" being one of them!!— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) April 6, 2014
His afternoon wasn't perfect though, as he was involved in an altercation late with Arsenal's Arteta. As this fan puts it, Barkley kind of looks like the type to be involved in a scrap or two.
Ross Barkley is the type of guy who squares up to his mirror in his bathroom— Will (@william_sass) April 6, 2014
Thanks to the performances from some of their top young players, Everton have now closed the gap with Arsenal to a single point, and with one game still in hand, the Toffees control their own fate as they try and seal the EPL's last Champions League spot.
While Everton's remaining schedule is significantly more difficult than that of the Gunners (including fixtures against Manchester City and Manchester United), momentum is clearly in the Toffees' corner, while Arsenal are now winless in four consecutive matches.
Lukaku and company will take on Sunderland when EPL competition resumes, and riding a five-game win streak, there's no reason to think the Toffees won't be able to keep this momentum going and overtake Arsenal in the race for fourth.