Rosicky finds his feet to stop 'lucky' Arsenal sliding to defeat
Arsenal 2 Everton 2
Sunday 10 January 2010
Arsène Wenger berated the powers-that-be for calling off so many Premier League games this weekend, with pitches playable even though access to many stadiums was tricky. The Arsenal manager, however, was only three stoppage-time minutes from wishing this match had been postponed as well, before Tomas Rosicky's deflected shot earned a draw that was scarcely deserved.
Given a chance, with Chelsea not playing, to close the gap on the Premier League leaders to one point, the Gunners were lucky to emerge with a point. They were stuck for long periods with their wheels spinning on an increasingly slippery surface.
As the snow fell harder and then began to settle, it stopped the cogs from turning in what is normally such a smooth machine. To add to Wenger's displeasure, Denilson, who scored his side's first equaliser here, was taken off in severe pain, having collapsed in agony with an injury Wenger described as "a mystery," suggesting either a rib or a lung problem for one of his key holding midfielders.
Wenger admitted it was not his side's best showing against a side they pummelled 6-1 on the opening day of the campaign at Goodison Park. He said: "We played a very good team and they were more dangerous and sharper than us. We dropped two points, but gained a point as we were closer to losing it than winning it. We didn't find our game today but we had spirit and fight. We had problems technically and Everton stopped us very well from playing. In midfield they were dominant." David Moyes went so far as to single out Marouane Fellaini as being the outstanding midfielder in the country at the moment.
Everton left the ground having extended their current record to no defeats in six League games, but Moyes knew they should have won against an Arsenal side that seemed, in the snowbound conditions, to freeze.
The crucial period came eight minutes from time, when the Toffees could have wrapped up victory. After a first half in which Leon Osman saw his header equalised by Denilson's deflected shot, the game swung back the visitors' way when Steven Pienaar gave his side the lead, breaking from the halfway line to run 50 yards before scooping his shot cheekily over Manuel Almunia as the Spaniard fell to the ground. It was an impressive effort and even better given the conditions underfoot.
A minute later James Vaughan, on for Louis Saha, had an identical opportunity. However, the substitute shot at Almunia when having the courage and confidence, not to say the technique, to copy Pienaar would have resulted in a third goal and guaranteed victory. Moyes said: "We have to be more ruthless. There are a few players shouting at each other in the dressing room." No prizes for guessing who was the main target.
Vaughan's miss left Arsenal with an opportunity to make up for their previously limp performance, one which highlighted the absence of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie.
Denilson's injury and extended time on the ground played, however perversely, into Arsenal's hands and in the additional five minutes, Abou Diaby moved into the penalty area and passed sideways to Rosicky. The Czech shot with the outside of his foot, and his effort deflected off Lucas Neill to float into Tim Howard's net.
Wenger acknowledged the good fortune that played an important part in keeping their title challenge on track but felt the team's attitude deserved praise too. He said: "It was an important goal by Rosicky as it shows the spirit of the team. We kept going and got the point, rewarding our efforts. We didn't produce the quality we are used to. We were flat and Everton are a good side. But we scored with two deflections so we are a bit lucky at the moment." Lucky Arsenal – give it time and that name could stick.
Referee: Peter Walton
Man of the match: Cahill
Match rating: 7/10
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