Wenger praises gritty Arsenal's 'fantastic spirit'

Arsenal 2 Everton 1

Arsenal put their beautiful football to one side and instead produced a display of character and desire that suggests they are finding the steel to go with their trademark silk.

They had to respond after going behind in controversial circumstances to Louis Saha's first-half goal, a strike which both managers agreed should not have been allowed to stand. And as the match seemed to be slipping from their grasp with 20 minutes to go, Arsenal claimed the victory by forcing Everton into making uncharacteristic errors.

However, they also showed the ugly side to their beautiful game in an incident at half-time, which had Everton manager David Moyes spitting feathers about remarks from Cesc Fabregas to referee Lee Mason.

Moyes said: "The comments which Cesc Fabregas made to the fourth official and referee at half-time deserved a sending off. He's a big player for them. I think it changed the flow of the game. I'm not going to repeat what he said. If he'd said them on the pitch, he would have been off like that."

Arsenal denied the accusation but the incident follows a row during Sunday's FA Cup tie with Huddersfield Town when Fabregas tried to get an opponent sent off by waving an imaginary card.

Arsène Wenger may not mind all that much if it demonstrates the mean streak his side have to develop if they are to transform their promising football into trophies. They certainly showed grit and determination against Everton when with 20 minutes to go they seemed to be heading towards their fourth home defeat in the Premier League this season.

Wenger said: "It was a victory of a team with fantastic spirit and a never-say-die attitude rather than our usual game, but that is needed in this championship. I'm very happy because the spirit is maybe the aspect of the team that's been questioned the most, and that's where we've been the most convincing recently."

They went behind in the middle of the first half to a controversial and disputed goal from in-form Everton striker Saha. Having played hard-fought matches in the past week in both the Carling and FA Cups, it was beginning to look as if Arsenal's exertions in four competitions were taking their toll.

The home side began listlessly, and conceded after 24 minutes. Saha was two yards offside when Seamus Coleman attempted to find him with a lofted ball over the back four. However, Laurent Koscielny stuck out a boot to intercept the ball, playing it into the path of Saha. The French striker gratefully accepted the chance by firing low past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny with his left foot for his fourth goal in his last five games.

On the touchline Wenger went wild, holding his arms wide in supplication, as Mason gave the goal. Then, with the players in the positions ready for the restart, the Bolton official decided to listen to the advice of his linesman Stephen Child. After a brief chat, Mason stuck with his original decision and gave the goal, to the howls of protests from the Arsenal fans packed into the Emirates.

Both managers agreed afterwards that the goal should not have stood, and the sense of injustice felt by Arsenal prompted the alleged incident in the tunnel at half-time.

Emotions ran high, eight players were booked as the match became a battle of wills, won by Arsenal. The introduction of Andrei Arshavin turned the game, as with 20 minutes to go he pulled Arsenal level with a wonderful right-foot volley. A lobbed pass from Fabregas came off the head of Jack Rodwell and fell nicely for Arshavin, who gracefully put the ball away.

The momentum now was all with Arsenal, and they pushed for the victory they so desperately needed if they were to maintain pressure on Premier League leaders Manchester United.

The Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard tipped over a dipping free-kick from Robin van Persie, and from the subsequent corner the visitors left Koscielny totally unmarked to score with a simple header.

Afterwards, Moyes was disappointed that his team were leaving London with nothing. "The players did a sterling job. We gave it away by our defending at a set-piece, so we have no one to blame but ourselves," the Everton manager said.



Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy; Song (Diaby, h-t), Wilshere (Bendtner, 68); Walcott, Fabregas, Rosicky (Arshavin, 62); Van Persie. Substitutes not used Almunia (gk), Eboué, Gibbs, Chamakh, Bendtner.

Everton (4-1-4-1): Howard; Neville (Jagielka, 78) , Distin, Heitinga, Baines; Fellaini; Coleman (Anichebe, 78), Arteta, Rodwell, Bilyaletdinov (Osman, 65); Saha. Substitutes not used Mucha (gk), Beckford, Gueye, Baxter.

Man of the Match Fabregas.

Match rating 6/10.

Referee L Mason (Bolton).

Attendance 60,014.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Life and Style
i100

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week