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Tuesday, May 26th

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Arsenal salvage a point in four-goal thriller at Everton

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Arsenal and Everton played out a pulsating encounter at Goodison Park in the late kick-off on Saturday, with the scores finishing at 2-2 after the Gunners came back from a two-goal 1st half deficit. Everton were much the better side in the 1st half as they deservedly took a healthy lead into the break thanks to goals from Seamus Coleman and Steven Naismith. The Gunners badly needed to regain their passing rhythm to get any foothold in the game and more importantly, they needed the presence of Olivier Giroud up front.

The Frenchman came at half-time and was a decisive presence for the Gunners, scoring the equalizer on 90 minutes with a powerful header. Aaron Ramsey played his usual part in the Arsenal result by halving the deficit on 83 minutes with a close range finish. Everton will be disappointed to collect only a point after going 2-0 up at home but full marks to Arsenal for never throwing in the towel.

There were no surprises in the home team’s line-up which had the hard-working pair of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy shielding a back four of Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Leighton Baines. The attacking trio supporting Romelu Lukaku were Kevin Miallas, Steven Naismith and Steven Pienaar.

Mikel Arteta’s absence through injury was alleviated by the return of Mathieu Flamini in his familiar defensive midfield role. An oddly-balanced line-up had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sharing the midfield space with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, with Mesut Ozil returning to the starting line-up to support Alexis Sanchez in a false striker’s role.The back-four comprised of Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal flanking Per Mertesacker and Calum Chambers.

A confident start from the visitors seemed to suggest that a repeat of last season’s debacle wouldn’t occur this time around, especially when Pienaar hobbled off with an injury after only 8 minutes. But the home side were the ones who looked more potent in attack, always find space in the Arsenal half to release their attackers. Like last season’s game, Lukaku was playing off the shoulder of Monreal on the left and the full0back had another nightmare evening as he constantly came up 2nd best against the imposing striker.

The opener came on that very side, but from the head of Coleman on 19 minutes. Sanchez gave away a silly free-kick around the halfway line and Everton worked the ball around to the inside left channel, where Barry was on hand to dink a beautiful cross onto the far post for the arriving Coleman to [;ace an unmarked header past the flapping Szczesny.

The stunned Gunners could have been two down a few minutes later when Mirallas was sent clean through, only to fluff his lines at the last minute by losing his footing and making a hash of the strike. The Belgian went closer later in the half when he whizzed a sublime free-kick inches wide of Szczesny’s goal, with the keeper yards away from stopping the ball.

Arsenal’s attack never found its rhythm in the final-third, with Sanchez at times playing too deep to allow the side to stretch Everton’s defence, who never gave the visitors space behind their line. Oxlade-Chamberlain was the lone bright spark for Arsenal with a couple of efforts on goal but none were as decisive as the action at the other end, where a deserved 2nd goal arrived for Everton in 1st half stoppage time after a blinding counter.

A defensive clearance from the opposite box led to Lukaku running onto acres of space on the right and with Arsenal completely exposed the Belgian played Naismith through with a reverse ball and the bleach blonde attacker perfectly finished past Szczesny, although replays did suggest that he might have been borderline offside.

Giroud, who should have halved the deficit barely a few minutes after the restart as he flashed a volley above the crossbar from a tight angle.  A stern half-time team talk gave the Arsenal players the kick up the backside they badly needed and they passed the ball at an exciting speed in the 2nd half, pouring men forward with confidence.

Giroud had another chance to find the back of the net as he fired just wide of the near post with a shot on the turn. That triggered a quiet period for Arsenal as Everton regained the upper-hand and should have wrapped up the game quite comfortably as Lukaku was sent clean through down the right on countless occasions but the Belgian never took full advantage.

And, Arsenal did get a goal back with seven minutes remaining to setup a tight finish and who else but Ramsey to get the goal as the midfielder scripted a repeat of last weekend’s strike by ghosting into the box to tap substitute Santi Cazorla’s cross from the left.

It was the boost the visitors needed and they equalized in dramatic fashion on the stroke of normal time when Monreal’s best contribution of the game resulted in Giroud thumping a header past Tim Howard to stun the home crowd.

Teams:

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Barry, McCarthy, Mirallas (Atsu85'), Naismith, Pienaar (Osman 10'), Lukaku (McGeady 76')

Subs: Robles, McGeady, Besic, Atsu, Osman, Stones, Alcaraz.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Chambers, Monreal, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Cambell 74'), Wilshere (Cazorla 74'), Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez (Giroud 45')

Subs: Koscielny, Rosicky, Giroud, Cazorla, Martinez, Campbell, Bellerin.

Final Score: Everton 2-2 Arsenal ( Coleman 19', Naismith 45', Ramsey 83', Giroud 90')