Romelu Lukaku missed a few early chances, and Arsenal got back to winning ways following the midweek Champions League disaster with a mundane 2-0 victory over Everton at the Emirates that pushed their Premier League top-four cushion back to three points.
Olivier Giroud scored before halftime on a corner, and Arsenal sat back from there, with Everton lacking the quality necessary to put the Gunners’ lead under pressure. Tomas Rosicky scored a deflected goal in the final minute of regulation to put the game out of sight.
Despite Arsenal’s possessional dominance early on, the first chance fell to Lukaku on a 17th-minute break, but Gunners goalkeeper David Ospina impressively came off his line and put in a pinpoint tackle, somehow avoided hacking down the big Belgian and instead dispossessed the striker and killed off the chance.
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Arsenal continued to test the Everton solidarity, and found chances few and far between. Olivier Giroud came very close to opening the scoring in the 27th minute, but missed wide with a free header after John Stones whiffed on Alexis Sanchez’s cross. Everton began to grow in the game as the second half dragged on, and they eventually overtook Arsenal for the lead in the possession stats. Gabriel Paulista put in a great tackle after the half-hour mark on Lukaku after making a mistake on the earlier breakaway, and Arsenal struck on the other end.
The Gunners, always good on set-pieces, scored as Giroud atoned for his earlier miss with a one-touch goal off a corner that evaded all the other bodies in a crowded penalty area, dragging it across to the far post and into the back of the net for the lead six minutes before the break. They nearly had another but Tim Howard stretched to keep out a driving shot from Alexis Sanchez.
Following halftime, again Everton controlled much of the ball but had little to show for it. Ospina wasn’t required until the 66th minute when Lukaku volleyed a shot with his back to goal that was destined for the top corner, but Ospina rose to tip it over the bar. Again Ospina was needed on 72 minutes when Seamus Coleman’s cutback from the byline found Aaron Lennon alone in the box but his shot was right at the Arsenal keeper.
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John Stones nearly finished off the game for his own side with an awful back-pass to Howard with 10 minutes to go, but Mesut Ozil couldn’t capitalize as Howard saved.
The game was put to rest in the 89th minute when Tomas Rosicky collected at the top of the box and rifled a low shot on net. It was headed straight for Tim Howard’s clutches, but the ball clipped Phil Jagielka on the way through and took enough of a deflection to sneak over Howard, who was already on the ground to collect. Giroud nearly collected a second goal in the seven minutes of stoppage time that followed, but he missed his second clear-cut headed chance of the game when he drove a free header into the ground and it jumped wide of the post.
Arsenal collected the three points to keep pace with Liverpool, pushing them back to three points clear in the top four and leapfrog Manchester United back into third position. Everton, meanwhile, remain just six points above the relegation zone, and while it’s still somewhat unfathomable that the Toffees should be worried about the drop, the relatively thin margin for error below them will cause concerns for some. Their position at this point in the season is Everton’s worst since 1998/99 season.
Arsenal – Ospina, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin (Chambers 88′), Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Rosicky 82′), Ozil, Alexis (Welbeck 87′), Giroud.
Goals: Giroud 39′, Rosicky 89′
Everton – Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Garbutt, McCarthy, Besic (Naismith 77′), Barry (Gibson 84′), Mirallas (Lennon 62′), Barkley, Lukaku.