Everton seized the initiative in the race for fourth place in the Premier League with a 3-0 win over main rivals Arsenal.
Arsenal’s star has dimmed in recent weeks and they have gone from a side fighting for the title, to battling it out for fourth.
Arsenal, winless since taking this. pic.twitter.com/WfvSo0q0uv— KICKTV (@KICKTV) April 6, 2014
They travelled to Goodison Park looking to reassert themselves but were swamped by an Everton side whose high-octane play proved too much.
First-half goals from Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku put Everton in control and the Gunners could not fashion a response.
Momentum is a vital ingredient in sport and while Arsenal are swimming against the tide, Everton are riding the crest of a wave—with this their seventh successive home win.
Everton now trail Arsenal by a solitary point, but they have a game in hand and maximum points between now and the end of the season will guarantee them fourth spot and with it a route to the Champions League.
Everton made a rapid start and Leon Osman, who went off with a head injury shortly afterwards, served notice of their threat by flashing a volley just wide.
Took Arsenal a while to work out what was happening. Even whey they realised, they still couldn't defend against it— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) April 6, 2014
Arsenal’s midfield found it tough to exert any authority on the game and, on 14 minutes, Everton turned defence into attack in brilliant fashion.
The Gunners were slow to see the danger and after Wojciech Szczesny had saved with his legs from Lukaku, Naismith was on hand to turn the ball home.
Arsenal were thankful to Szczesny for keeping them within hailing distance, as he was forced to make smart saves to deny Kevin Mirallas and Naismith.
But as well as Szczesny had performed, he had no chance with Everton’s second on 34 minutes.
A rapid break saw Mirallas spread the ball to Lukaku, who cut in from the right without a challenge being made. With space to pick his spot, the Belgian forward arrowed a strike across Szczesny and into the bottom corner.
Arsenal’s first chance of note did not arrive until the 41st minute, with Tim Howard needing to be alert to push Lukas Podolski’s shot over the bar.
Arsenal were almost handed a route back into the match on 53 minutes, as Mirallas got in a tangle in his own box and it needed the intervention of Szczesny to smother at the feet of Olivier Giroud.
Everton put the game beyond Arsenal with a third on 61 minutes.
Mirallas started and finished the move. He won possession off Bacary Sagna in his own half, drove forward and fed the ball to Naismith. Szczesny came out to save at the feet of the midfielder, but Mirallas had kept running and turned the loose ball into the net—although there was a suspicion it was turned in by Mikel Arteta.
Everton one point behind Arsenal with a game in hand and three goals better of in terms of GD. Huge win, this.— Jack (@JackWatson_) April 6, 2014
Arsenal threw on Aaron Ramsey for his first outing since Boxing Day, but he could not spark any sort of revival for an Arsenal side who are in real danger of seeing their season completely fall apart.
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Toffees keeper Tim Howard did not have a massive amount to do, but he was solid when required.
The American spoke to Sky Sports in the immediate aftermath of the game and he was full of praise for the Goodison Park crowd.
They were vocal and up for it. They knew what it meant going into the game, if we could take three points we would be hot on their tails.
They have waited all season for a blockbuster performance like this, and this was definitely one.