Cesc Fabregas avoids punishment over referee rant

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas was today in the clear after the Football Association revealed referee Lee Mason made no special mention of the episode which left David Moyes raging at the Emirates Stadium.

Everton boss Moyes suggested Fabregas should have been red-carded for comments the Toffees boss claimed he made to match officials in the tunnel at half-time last night.

Home manager Arsene Wenger denied Fabregas had even spoken to the officials, stressing it was he and not the Spanish midfielder who had his say at the interval.

And the FA have confirmed they received no extraordinary incident report from referee Lee Mason of any confrontation involving Fabregas.

Fabregas has no doubt Arsenal's battling 2-1 victory over Everton proves they have the character needed to push Manchester United all the way in the race for the Barclays Premier League title.

The Gunners rallied after going behind to what looked an offside effort from Louis Saha to net twice in the space of five minutes during the second half.

Victory kept them five points behind Manchester United, who extended their unbeaten run this season to 24 league matches after a 3-1 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

Wenger praised his team's new-found resilience as they chalked up a six successive win, achieved without 14-goal midfielder Samir Nasri who will be sidelined for three weeks with a hamstring injury and so miss the first leg of the Champions League clash against Barcelona.

And Fabregas is confident Arsenal have what it takes to last the distance.

"We were not up for it at the start against Everton and we were very sloppy. We know that we could have paid for it, but fortunately the team stepped up," Fabregas told Arsenal TV Online.

"We realised that if we kept playing like that, we would be going nowhere.

"It is a very inspiring comeback and maybe we needed something like that to lift us and see that even with injuries and suspensions, we can still have a really strong squad.

"Now we have three days to recover for what will be a big game on Saturday [at Newcastle]."

Front-runners United still have to play Chelsea twice, matches which could have a major say in the title race, but Fabregas maintains Arsenal are only focused on what they can achieve.

"We are just concentrating on ourselves, even if the other teams draw, lost or won, it does not matter," he said.

"The good thing is we are up there fighting for the championship because we really want to go for it."

Arsenal levelled through Andrey Arshavin's volley before Laurent Koscielny headed home what proved to be the winner from a corner.

The French centre-half, whose attempted clearance had led to Saha's controversial goal, believes only the Gunners can overhaul United.

"It looks like we are the last contenders - United are five points ahead of us and they are more points ahead of Chelsea, Manchester City and the others," said the summer signing from Lorient.

"Those teams can come back strong as well, but we look like we could challenge United.

"We have to keep focused on our games and not look too much at theirs.

"We have to keep winning and hopefully they will drop points at some point."

Koscielny, 25, explained: "We have to keep working together - that is the key because if we don't concede goals, we will always have an opportunity to score ourselves.

"Between now and the end of the season, it is going to be a big fight."

Arsenal will be hoping both midfielder Alex Song (leg) and Theo Walcott (ankle) recover from knocks picked up last night to be able to feature at St James' Park.

However, it appears goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski could be sidelined for the rest of the season, with reports in his native Poland suggesting the 26-year-old will need surgery on a shoulder problem.

Everton, meanwhile, will now regroup for the visit of Blackpool after what for them was only a second defeat since the end of November.

Midfielder Mikel Arteta feels Saha, 32, can continue on the goals trail to help Moyes' men climb up into the top half of the table.

"Louis is a world-class player. When he is in form like he is right now he is as good as anyone out there, and he showed that in the first half," Arteta said in the Liverpool Echo.

"We've got what we've got in terms of players, and we need to get through with that.

"Hopefully he can carry on scoring for us and putting us ahead in games.

"It was our mistakes that cost us. Not Arsenal being unbelievable. It was up to us and we cost ourselves the game."

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