Steven Naismith, Romelu Lukaku and an own goal from Mikel Arteta move the Toffees within one point of the visitors, who also have a game in hand on Arsene Wenger's faltering side.Everton's Champions League hopes are in its own hands after a 3-0 win over top-four rival Arsenal at Goodison Park on Sunday.
First-half strikes from Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku, along with an own goal from Mikel Arteta, put the hosts on course for a first appearance in Europe's premier club competition since 2005-06, when the club failed to make it past the qualifying rounds.
|VIEW FROM GOODISON PARK
|By Tom Maston
The dancing in the aisles that greeted the final whistle at Goodison Park said it all.
Everton believes it can qualify for the Champions League, and after wiping the floor with Arsenal, many more around the country will be joining the club in that belief.
Romelu Lukaku and Steven Naismith ran the Gunners' defense ragged and with Ross Barkley pulling the strings from midfield, this was as complete a performance as the Toffees have put in this season.
Tough assignments still await it, but with Arsene Wenger's side looking bereft of all confidence, Everton is rightly the favorite to join Europe's elite now.
Naismith gave Everton a great start when he opened the scoring after 14 minutes — tucking the ball home after Wojciech Szczesny had done well to deny Lukaku.
Lukaku, a threat to Arsenal's back line for much of the half, doubled the lead when he cut in from the right before evading the attentions of Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen.
The Belgian then fired past Szczesny, who was again left helpless thanks to more feeble Arsenal defending, before former Everton midfielder Arteta scored on his own net in the second half under pressure from Kevin Mirallas.
Arsene Wenger's men must reflect on another damaging defeat, which extends their winless run in the top flight to four matches, and face an uphill task to secure a 17th successive season in the Champions League.
In a lively opening, Leon Osman went close after two minutes with a dipping effort that sailed marginally wide of Szczesny's left-hand post, while Lukas Podolski's shot veered just off target at the other end.
Osman was then forced off after suffering a cut to the head when challenging Bacary Sagna, with Ross Barkley introduced in his place, but the switch did not harm Everton as Naismith pounced on a loose ball to find the net.
Lukaku had brought a smart save from Szczesny but Naismith kept cool to slide home the rebound as Everton was rewarded for its positive start.
Arsenal went in search of an equalizer but was kept at bay by an Everton side that looked threatening on the break and assured in the back.
The hosts moved further clear when Lukaku produced a stunning solo effort to register his 13th league goal of the season just after the half-hour mark.
It was no more than Everton deserved as the Toffees put themselves in control at the break before starting the second half brightly.
Aside from a moment of madness that saw Mirallas lose possession to Olivier Giroud inside his own area, the hosts looked comfortable in protecting their lead.
Mirallas then played a key role in Everton's third, setting a counterattack in motion and releasing Naismith. The Scot was denied by Szczesny but Arteta put the ball home under pressure from the Belgian.
Aaron Ramsey made his first appearance since Dec. 26 as a substitute for Arsenal, having been out with a thigh injury, but the Welshman's return only proved a minor consolation for Wenger on an otherwise gloomy day, which ended with Yaya Sanogo having a goal ruled out for offside.