Gerard Deulofeu came off the bench to prevent Arsenal taking a seven-point lead at the Premier League summit with a stunning late equalizer at the Emirates Stadium. Mesut Ozil’s strike 10 minutes from time had looked poised to give Arsenal a victory to capitalize on their title rivals’ slip-ups on Saturday, but Everton responded magnificently with their Spanish starlet, on loan from Barcelona, scoring a scorching goal four minutes later.
On the balance of play, it would be hard to begrudge Everton a point from a match in which they backed up their memorable victory at Old Trafford during the week. Without creating any chances of note, Roberto Martinez’s men were dominant for the opening 40 minutes against an Arsenal side that lacked energy, despite Arsene Wenger having made four changes from the win over Hull City on Wednesday.
But at the end of the opening half, Arsenal got going and were twice denied by Tim Howard. Everton, with their eye-pleasing passing and equally impressive endeavor without the ball, had appeared to have quelled Arsenal’s threat. Instead the game exploded into life in the closing minutes, first when Ozil fired in from close range, before Deulofeu’s dramatic impact on the match. There could have been a further twist had it not been for the woodwork denying Olivier Giroud an even more spectacular goal with almost the last kick of the match.
Having been so close to the win, Wenger will no doubt be disappointed not to have made more of dropped points for Chelsea and Manchester City. Still, with his side not at their best for much of the encounter, and against an impressive Everton side, he may reflect that it is far from the worst point to have picked up. And in the bigger picture, a five point advantage in the Premier League standings still leaves his side in the driver's seat, against all pre-season predictions.
Meanwhile, things continue to look positive for Everton. Again Martinez’s side played with positivity and belief at the home of one the Premier League’s big boys. Just one point now stands between them and the top four and, on this evidence, a Champions League place is a realistic goal.
Fresh from their first win at Old Trafford for 21 years, an unchanged Everton came out full of confidence and were controlling proceedings. With possession strongly in their favor, as Ross Barkley again provided ample glimpses of his potential in front of the controlling influence of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy, Everton were playing in the manner of the home side.
Still, with Barkley and others just lacking the final ball, the visitors failed to turn their possession into chances. And they could have found themselves behind at the interval.
In the final five minutes of the half, Arsenal increased their intensity and, crucially, began to get their typically sharp, intricate interchanges going between their key creative talents. Ozil came to life by setting up Giroud, and it required Howard to come racing off his line and present an imposing obstacle to block the Frenchman’s dink. The freshly shaved Everton goalkeeper rescued Everton again moments later when he denied Aaron Ramsey in similar fashion after a clever exchange between him and Giroud.
Arsenal continued where they left off after the break. Santi Cazorla failed to get enough power or direction on a header to beat Howard, while Ramsey’s stretching effort was also kept out by the U.S. international. Everton soon settled again and threatened too when Barkley’s delightful flick set up Steven Pienaar for a 20-yard effort that forced Wojciech Szczesny into some rare action.
Wenger responded by making a triple substitution and they had a significant impact. One of those introduced, Mathieu Flamini, might have done better with a shot that was just dragged past the post, before the other two arrivals played key roles in breaking the deadlock.
Tomas Rosicky’s floated ball to the back post saw Bryan Oviedo lose Theo Walcott behind him and from the winger’s header across goal Giroud missed his kick but Ozil made no mistake in smashing the ball into the roof of the net. That might well have been decisive, but it was Everton’s own substitution that saw them respond. A cross from the left traveled through to the back post to Deulofeu and with a quick touch and instant shot the ball fizzed past Szczesny and into the top corner.
In an action-packed finale, Giroud was inches away from snatching victory in the fourth minute of injury time with a rasping drive from 25 yards, but a draw was ultimately a just result after an always engaging encounter between two quality teams.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.