Arsenal 0 Everton 0 - A hard fought point

Last updated : 16 April 2013 By Chris

Everton were resilient and had much of the possession tonight. They're a good side and you'd expect nothing less than a fight, but even so they've never won at The Emirates and tonight was no exception.

I was hoping for another late late show, but it didn't materialise despite the fact that we got at them in the last twenty minutes.

At least we kept a clean sheet and got the point - it could have been worse - and it's fair to say that we're still on a good run of results.

Roll on Saturday and three points please!

Here's the report:

Arsenal wasted the chance to pull clear in the race for the Champions League as Everton earned a deserved point at Emirates Stadium.

Arsene Wenger’s side could have pulled four points clear of Chelsea and Tottenham, albeit having played two more games than their London rivals respectively, to take a stranglehold on third place in the table.

Yet Everton, who remain firmly in contention in sixth place with this result, proved that they have what it takes to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition themselves.

However, Arsenal were left feeling aggrieved by referee Neil Swarbrick after he mysteriously failed to send Everton midfielder Darron Gibson off in the first half for two yellow card offences.

He may have harshly booked him for a robust tackle on Theo Walcott in the 28th minute, but that made his leniency six minutes later even more bizarre.

Gibson cynically blocked Walcott as he was running clear and everyone in the ground expected to see a red card follow suit, yet Swarbrick just issued a warning.

Still Arsenal only have themselves to blame for failing to secure a crucial home victory, with striker Olivier Giroud particularly guilty of wasting a hat-trick of chances.

The Frenchman had already missed one sitter before half-time, but also blazed one glorious chance over the bar in the second half.

He also allowed Seamus Coleman to outmuscle him when the goal was at his mercy following  another rapid Arsenal break.

With just a month of the season remaining and Champions League football a target for both clubs, there was a lot at stake in this match, especially as only four points separated them in the table.

One only had to watch the tackles flying in from both sides in the opening exchanges to see this was going to be some contest.

Everton may have been playing at the only Premier League ground they have yet to register a win at, but there were no signs of an inferiority complex.

Interestingly manager David Moyes decided to select youngster Ross Barkley instead of Leon Osman, while Arsene Wenger recalled Wojciech Szczesny in goal for the first time in six matches and started Jack Wilshere in midfield.

It was strange only because Wenger had admitted that he had recalled him too soon after his latest ankle injury on the eve of the match, but then it just shows how important the England international is to the Gunners’ cause.

With Everton proving physically strong in midfield, it looked like it could have been a decision he would regret, especially when he stayed down after a robust tackle from Barkley early on.

That fair, but firm, challenge wasn’t the only signal of intent from the visitors, they should have led inside seven minutes but Steven Pienaar fired over from 12 yards after being found by a superb pass by Seamus Coleman.

As Arsenal struggled to impose their passing game, the fans became increasingly frustrated and the Gibson incident was not the only time they shouted at Swarbrick in frustration.

In fact, Wenger’s side seemed to lose focus because of the challenges and it wasn’t until just before half-time that they created a genuine chance.

Giroud should have put the home side in front, but somehow steered Aaron Ramsey’s sublime cross wide from eight yards.

It seemed the tension from Everton’s approach may have led to an altercation in the tunnel at half-time but, in truth, it just added to the intensity of the occasion.

Fears that the second half would prove to be an anti-climax were unfounded as both sides continued to battle for a priceless three points.

Barkley, who was justifying Moyes’ decision to pick him, almost broke the deadlock with a fine curling shot that seemed to graze the far post.

But Arsenal took a grip on the closing stages following Wenger’s decision to bring on Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with 22 minutes remaining.

They injected some more pace and energy and, but for Giroud’s woeful finishing, Arsenal would have made it eight League wins from nine.

The two clubs with most reason to be happy with the result were Chelsea and Tottenham, but the race for the top four will clearly have plenty more twists before the season ends next month.