Everton vs Arsenal match report: Giroud rescues a point for Arsenal after they trailed by two goals
Everton 2 Arsenal 2
Saturday 23 August 2014
This match began with images of Roberto Martinez having a bucket of iced water tipped over him to raise money for neurological research. It ended with the Everton manager receiving a far more painful shock to the system.
There were times in the first half when it appeared that Arsenal would not just be beaten, they might be routed. However, Arsène Wenger had seen his side recover to snatch a victory in their opening game against Crystal Palace and now they hit back late once more.
Nevertheless, when Aaron Ramsey clipped home Santi Cazorla’s low cross from close range, it seemed unlikely Wenger would get his fig-leaf of a point. However, since their 3-0 defeat here in April that seemed to have dashed their chances of Champions’ League football, there has been something tougher and more resilient about Arsenal and the moment when Olivier Giroud headed home Nacho Monreal’s cross was further proof.
However, those Arsenal fans who remained in the Bullens Road Stand chanting that Everton had squandered a two-goal lead - or words to that effect - would probably have been the same ones who had spent season after barren season demanding that Wenger spend some of Arsenal’s vast financial reserves.
The fact was that his two weakest performers were Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil, men on whom the club has spent £77m. For Sanchez, this was only his second game but Özil is more worrying. This is his second season.
The first thing you would be confronted by when turning into Goodison Road for the start of a new season was a vast portrait of Martinez draped from the Main Stand above the slogan: “Solo Lo Mejor”. They used to do this for Politburo members in the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union accompanied by exhortations to increase tractor production rather than the Spanish for “only the best will do”. It would have surprised those coming to Merseyside from London; there is nothing remotely similar celebrating Wenger at the Emirates. However, after only one season at Everton, Martinez already casts a giant shadow.
Arsenal had been outplayed here in April and they were outplayed now to such an extent that the loss of Steven Pienaar, withdrawn after 10 minutes, was scarcely noticed.
In contrast, Sanchez, Arsenal’s marquee summer signing, lasted one half in which he produced nothing of note. Within seconds of the restart, his replacement, Olivier Giroud, was presented with a far better chance than the Chilean had been given in 45 minutes of football. It was squandered.
Most of the summer fuss around Everton had centred on the £28m deal for Romelu Lukaku but the much more modest fee that took Gareth Barry permanently from Manchester City to Goodison was in its way just as interesting. It was a little chip from Barry that provided the breakthrough. It was probably aimed at Lukaku but it went beyond the Belgian’s head but not that of Seamus Coleman, who powered it into the roof of the Arsenal net via the tips of Wojciech Szczesny’s glove.
It was a more difficult chance than the one Everton spurned a few moments later as Steven Naismith’s header stranded Calum Chambers and put Kevin Mirallas through on goal. The surprise was that the ball finished the other side of the post.
For the 19-year-old Chambers, this was his bucket of iced water delivered after a promising beginning against Crystal Palace. Everton at Goodison are, however, a rather different proposition.
He had already earned a warning for muscling in on Mirallas when he was left horribly exposed by the sight of Per Mertesacker recklessly over-committing himself in Everton’s half, allowing Lukaku to race down the right flank. Lukaku versus Chambers was a no-contest and Arsenal had just Mathieu Flamini to prevent the breakaway. Lukaku passed to Naismith and the Scot had his second goal in as many games, although television replays suggested offside.
Replacing Sanchez with Giroud gave an Arsenal attack more of an edge, although hitherto Everton’s back four had looked as rattled as a man threatened by a spatula.
However, it was past the hour when Tim Howard made his first save of the evening, denying Giroud what should have been Arsenal’s opener long before Ramsey struck.
Most football matches carry shadows from the past. In April, Lukaku had ruthlessly attacked and exposed Monreal, who had been acting as a makeshift left-back, and he did the same now. After the debacle in Bloemfontein during the 2010 World Cup, Barry probably never wants to share a pitch with Özil again. The German should have been a spectre over the Everton midfield, instead he was anonymous, a ghost in somebody else’s game.
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