Everton-Arsenal: Gunners Grind Out a Win
It's also precisely the sort of win Arsenal are going to have to keep getting if they're going to win the Premiership title in May.
Everton were a team on a mission. They came out flying in the first half and dominated Arsenal throughout, having the bulk of possession and the only chances on net—including a scrappy goal from Tim Cahill that came off Everton’s first corner of the game.
At the half, it seemed that Arsenal were about to fail as Manchester United had earlier in the afternoon at West Ham. Set pieces were the Achilles' heel for the usually rock-solid United defense, and looked like they might be the problem for Arsenal at Goodison.
But it was not to be.
90 seconds into the second half, the tables turned for good. Eduardo da Silva pulled down a long ball from the back and coolly slotted it past a sprawling Tim Howard.
It was Eduardo’s first touch inside the 18-yard box, but it was all he needed to find the net for his first Premiership goal and eighth in all competitions.
Eduardo nabbed his brace 11 minutes later with a sneaky handball to pull the ball away from Phil Jagielka’s hip and onto his feet. When no whistle blew, Eduardo scored with a calm that was reminiscent of Dennis Bergkamp at his peak.
There's no doubt that the goal should not have counted, but to be fair to referee Martin Atkinson the handball was only visible in one replay.
Regardless, the score put Arsenal ahead and they never lost their grip—even after Nicklas Bendtner’s meltdown in the 74th minute.
Bendtner disappointed from beginning to end in his first EPL start. His passing was inaccurate, his touches were wooden, and his tackles were worse than sloppy—they were dangerous.
Bendtner's efforts certainly weren’t malicious, but the laws of the game make no concession for motivation, nor should they.
Truth be told, he deserved two yellow cards early on and a straight red for the tackle on Andy Johnson that finally saw him sent off.
That should have been the break Everton needed, but it wasn’t.
Moments later, Emmanuel Adebayor capitalized on a terrible miscommunication between Tim Howard and Joseph Yobo. With a quick toe poke, Adebayor slipped the ball past the American keeper, then followed it through the box and into the net.
The goal put Arsenal up 3-1, and it looked to be game over for Everton.
But the true end for Everton came when Mikel Arteta earned a red card for an elbow on Cesc Fabregas. Arteta’s infraction was even less malicious than Bendtner’s—but it's the action that counts, and his elbow clearly made contact with Fabregas’ face.
All that was left was for Arsenal to run down the clock, and they seemed to be content to do just that until Adebayor noticed a gap in the defense and slipped the ball through for Abu Diaby, who flicked it on to Tomas Rosicky.
It took until the waning minutes of the game, but Arsenal and Rosicky finally found the patented, pretty Arsenal goal, condemning the brave Toffees to a 4-1 defeat.
It was an unfair result for a tough and unlucky Everton side, and had their defense excelled the way their midfield did, the outcome would have been very different.
Still, Arsenal’s resilience and their ability to punish sloppy defending ultimately sealed the deal.
It was ugly, but the right team won—no matter what David Moyes said in his post-match interview.
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