Arsenal allowed a goal for the first time in five games as they fought to a 1-1 tie against Everton on Sunday. The point stretched Arsenal’s lead at the top of the Premier League to five points over Liverpool and Chelsea, who were upset at Stoke City on Saturday. Mesut Özil’s fourth goal of the season was enough to ensure the Gunners a point against one of the hottest teams in England this year.
The game started out in surprising fashion, with Everton dominating the run of play, and Arsenal unable to find any fluidity to their passing game. The best player on the field was young Ross Barkley, who helped Everton’s midfield control the tempo of the game and create numerous opportunities throughout the first half.
Despite the constant pressure, Arsenal was able to stand firm and keep the game scoreless before creating a couple chances of their own right before halftime. Everton and U.S. National Team goalkeeper, Tim Howard, came up with two point blank saves that ensured Everton didn’t go behind unjustly. First, he charged off his line to prevent Olivier Giroud from breaking the deadlock and then in similar fashion, denied Aaron Ramsey after some clever build up play between himself and Giroud.
Arsenal began the second half as they finished the first, with a much higher tempo in possession. This gave Arsenal a little more punch in attack, although it did leave more space for Everton to exploit on the counter attack. The teams traded attacks before Tim Howard thwarted Ramsey again when he impressively saved a rocketed volley at his near post.
Arsenal finally found the breakthrough they were looking for in the 80th minute, when Tomas Rosicky played a long diagonal ball to Theo Walcott on the back post. His header across goal was missed by Giroud before being smashed into the top of the net by Özil for his second goal in two games. With only ten minutes to play at home, it seemed as if Arsenal would close the game out and pick up their fifth win in five games, but Everton were not going to go down without a fight.
On-loan Barcelona youngster, Gerard Deulofeu, lashed a ferocious shot past Szczesny only four minutes later to bring Everton level with the league leaders. It was the type of goal that, even as an Arsenal fan, you could only stand up and applaud. After Everton’s goal it looked all but certain the game would end up in a tie, although Olivier Giroud nearly pulled a rabbit out the hat when his half volley from 25 yards out slammed off the corner of crossbar and post in the 93rd minute. It is always disappointing to come so close to winning and only finish with a tie, but I think this result against a tough Everton team was more of a point gained than two points lost.
The games continue to come thick and fast for Arsenal as they play their final Champion’s League group stage game on Wednesday, when they travel to Italy to face Napoli. A win or a tie will ensure Arsenal wins their group, and anything other than a loss by three or more goals will take Arsenal through to the Round of 16 for the 11th consecutive season.