Arsenal 2 Everton 1: Nervy, but three points in the bag

Last updated : 24 March 2003 By Brian Dawes

Man of the match Paddy is brought down by Gravesen

Everton under David Moyes are not the easy three points they once were and with them chasing a European spot and the Liverpudlian title (a rare two horse race this season) this match had the makings of a well contested affair. And that it most certainly was. The pre-match pub talk was more like a prayer meeting for the early return of Ashley and Martin plus a plea for an early resumption of our free-flowing, multi-passing, quick, slick play that has gone temporarily absent.

Gio returned to our left back berth and Cygan retained his place at the back. Dennis Bergkamp returned to play just behind Thierry while Freddie and Rob were our wide men for the day. Pat and Sol once more passed late fitness tests, and thank goodness they did. While Warmuz, Wiltord, Jeffers, Parlour and Toure warmed the bench.

Arsenal kicked off towards the Clock End on a sunny afternoon that saw a band of sunshine in front of the East Stand contrast with the shadow cast by the West Stand. An early free kick from Everton only found our wall while we saw some brilliance from Pat in a move where Rob almost put Freddie away. Another big move with more slickness than of late won a corner and with about eight minutes on the clock Henry whipped the corner across. It was beautifully met by Cygan who headed down with conviction to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal. We were delighted for Pascal as were his team-mates and for the remainder of the half he was obviously lifted by his goal and won about 95% of all his challenges, especially in the air. Amazing what a goal does for confidence.

Boy wonder in their eighteen shirt looked lively enough but was often swatted by our fairly resolute defence. He was operating mainly down our left flank and looked their biggest threat. Arsenal and more particularly Vieira were bossing the game though and although Rob showed some great touches he wasn't absolutely on his game and neither was Freddie. Dennis looked up for it and was in belligerent, work-hard and go for everything mood. 4 even tried to take the great man out but only succeeded in injuring himself in his challenge on the Iceman.

An Arsenal break that ended when Freddie slipped was followed up with a bit of brilliance from Dennis that just made you wonder how the hell did it. Unfortunately his shot that followed wasn't all that but Wright failed to hold it and Thierry won a corner following up. An Everton counter saw Unsworth trundling down their left flank before blasting his cross high into the North Bank. A classy Henry flick nearly found Rob. Lauren cut inside for a shot following a good left to right passing move. At the other end it was good to see that Kevin Campbell still hadn't sussed the offside law. Henry was hauled down by Weir but his free kick from extreme range was saved low by Wright.

Pascal was playing well and Lauren won a great 45/55 with Unsworth while Gio was quite happy to hit Campbell with a fine tackle. On a more positive note Henry went not too far wide with a deceptive shot from range following yet another Vieira break. Pat was up for it big time while Rob found Henry with a tasty first time pass but his low shot was saved. Gravesen was well off target with a hit and hope from range. Gravesen crudely chopped Pat but there was no sign of a card. A brilliant run by Freddie and some great controlled pressure from Arsenal saw corner follow corner.

Cygan gets his first goal for the club
Li Tie, no doubt being watched by a couple of billion or so fans, got a warning from Wiley about his excessive number of late tackles. Taylor who enjoys a good shout did well to dummy Campbell despite being fouled in the process, I think everyone is warming to Stuart and his displays have deserved nothing less since Seaman's injury. Rooney did well to flash one across the face of our goal and it was the same old story, we'd bossed the game but not killed it off. That's not to deride Everton though because they defended well and certainly worked hard. Gravesen chopped Dennis and you began to wonder just how many hacks he was going to be allowed by Alan Wiley. Both Gravesen and Li Tie knew how to put it about and were encouraged to do so by Wiley's failure to intervene.

Freddie put Henry in but his shot that followed was well blocked. Two successive corners to Everton in a late rally came in response. In the two minutes of added time a free kick was awarded out wide against Gio who had quite clearly been fouled. This prompted the question, from a geezer behind me, about Wiley's susceptibility to bribery. Or in more precise terms 'Oi you ****ing fat blind tart, how much have those ****s bunged you, you Scouse loving ****er! But fortunately11 fired his rather tasty free kick just past our post. A half time lead but we had plenty left to do for the three points.

Everton kicked off and Henry with his sox heaved up over his kneecaps skinned Weir early on. Rob wimped out on a far post cross that was hit over from our right, the cross deserved a greater effort. Pat fired one in following a one-two with Rob. Gravesen tripped Pires yet again in a move that looked seriously dangerous as we had numbers up in space. Wiley failed to note Gravesen's name but was quick enough to flash a card at Lauren for a similar trip in midfield which wasn't going to result in a goal chance. Arsene was incensed on the touch line and told the fourth official what he thought. Me and a few thousand others told Wiley what we thought but the prat paid no attention.

Rooney played one in well for Campbell (Kevin) and he hit it into the side netting at the near post. The Everton fans thought it was in so we jeered them in a most ungentlemanly fashion. The Scousers didn't have long to wait though because in their next attack, also down their right, Gio and Pascal appeared to say 'after you, no after you old chap' to each other as Roonaldo ran at them. Cygan backed off too far too quickly giving him the space to take it on and he did so gleefully. A neat low driven finish past Taylor meant it was 1-1 and once more our failure to capitalise when ahead had been our downfall. You can't help thinking that the lack of cover in front of our left sided defenders had much to do with it though, if full backs are exposed it's not always their fault. The goal came eleven minutes into the half so we had plenty of time left but there were an awful lot of exasperated fans around the ground at this point, I doubt if Arsene was best pleased either.

Thankfully Pat has come of age as our captain and as captain's performances go this was in the McLintock and Adams class, and for my money no greater compliment can be paid. He's not a shouter; he's a doer, he also happens to be the best doer in the world. Dennis was called offside, but it looked very marginal to me. Rooney was left unmarked again. Li Tie fouled Lauren, Li Tie then hacked down Vieira and finally got his overdue yellow card. Dennis was held as Pires shot. Then Vieira took the game by the scruff of the neck. We had it in their area, there was a bouncing ball that Dennis fought for and before we knew it Pat had tried to burst the net with a stonking shot. 2-1 Arsenal and Vieiramania reached new peaks as he disappeared into the North Bank to celebrate with the fans.

Pires celebrates with goalscorer Cygan
Everton didn't roll over and die though they came back at us and all our players were back for a corner after Sol saw off the boy wonder. Pires off to be replaced by Parlour, Freddie went left. Scot Gemmill on for Li Tie. Ray showed why he should have been on the pitch earlier with his gritty determination, its no coincidence that he's got as many medals as he has. Pat to Dennis to Thierry - almost. Rooney tripped Lauren and Pat muscled Unsworth off the ball before Duncan Ferguson replaced Watson with what seemed like express orders to put it about. A big ball up for the Toffees followed almost immediately, no surprise there! Gilberto fired a long-range effort over. Freddie stormed down the left and slung in a good cross that no one met. Our lack of a box player showed quite often in this match, with no one to mark or to pull them about their centre backs had the luxury of just covering whoever or whatever they felt like. It didn't help matters that we didn't get enough runners into their box often enough to cause panic.

Great ball in by Henry saw Freddie take it on with a fine run and clip his shot just over. Kolo replaced Dennis before Henry stormed down the left and was away, the flag went up but no way did the ball go out of play, it was right in front of us! But Thierry's petulance in slam dunking the ball into the ground, although expressive, was dumb enough to warrant the yellow card. Parlour was getting stuck in as Everton fired it in and a storming run down the wing saw Ray get a standing ovation after one seriously gritty and determined solo effort in the four minutes of added time. Three more vital points won.

The end of season matches are often down to sheer will power, Pat had that today and looked head and shoulders above everyone on the pitch. Sure Rooney showed potential and I'm sure that if he works at it he could be a great player. Pat however is already one of the world's greatest and proving it now on a weekly basis. If he has his way he'll be lifting at least one trophy as Arsenal's captain in May. Whether he does or not though will ultimately depend on the other ten and whether they want it as much as he does.