Arsenal 1-0 Everton: Robin van Persie nets stunning second-half goal to give Gunners narrow triumph at the Emirates
Arsene Wenger's side ensured the Toffees didn't spoil the 125th anniversary party, as the Dutchman's volley lifts them into the top four for the first time this season
By Josh Clarke at the Emirates
In a first half that was all bark and no bite, the north London side dominated their visitors yet it wasn’t until the 70th minute that the hosts managed to break down their opponents.
An Alex Song pass carved open the Everton back four, allowing Robin van Persie to stride on and sink a left-footed, first-time volley in off the far post, taking the Arsenal captain to just one goal off Thierry Henry’s club record for goals in a calendar year, with the Frenchman watching from the stands.
It was a win that crystallised Arsenal’s Premier League renaissance, carrying them into the top four of the table for the first time this season.
The dearth of full backs at the Emirates meant that Arsene Wenger was forced to draft Johan Djourou and Thomas Vermaelen in at right and left-back respectively, with Everton welcoming back Louis Saha to the starting lineup, with Phil Neville also replacing Jack Rodwell.
The home side enjoyed much the better start of the two, regularly threatening with the pace of wide men Theo Walcott and Gervinho on the counter.
It was the English winger who burst through for the first chance of the game, opting to square for Gervinho, though the Ivorian was distracted enough by Tony Hibbert to miscue his effort at the open goal.
Making history | Arsenal celebrated their 125th anniversary with victory over Everton
Aaron Ramsey manoeuvred excellently in the box after being slid through by Song but his left-footed effort hit the top of the net moments before Tim Howard denied Gervinho from close range.
Arsenal turned the screw as the half reached its closing stages, though with Walcott getting the better of Leighton Baines several times down the right flank, there was little by way of end product to put the hosts in front.
The second half started exactly as its predecessor ended, though in the same exasperating fashion.
Walcott blazed over after cutting in off the wing, then stung Howard’s palms with a drive from similar range before Vermaelen halted a rare Everton attack, by taking the ball off the head of Tim Cahill at the far post.
With David Moyes opting to introduce Sylvain Distin for Saha with half an hour left, the Gunners job of breaking down an obdurate back four was made all the more difficult.
Neville bent one just over the bar as Everton began to sense that they could maybe spoil the party and steal something from the encounter
However, that sentiment was duly snatched away as Van Persie broke the deadlock in emphatic style. Song lofted a delightful ball over the top of the Everton back four and the Gunners’ captain latched onto the pass, striking the ball first time with his left foot as it went in off the far post.
Substitute Conor McAleny nearly grabbed an equaliser for Everton in the dying seconds, though Arsenal managed to see out the game to claim victory on a momentous day in the history of the club.
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