Everton and Arsenal were forced to settle for a share of the points after a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park. In a match that could have serious ramifications for who claims a Champions League place come the end of the season, Everton remained with a point advantage after Marouane Fellaini cancelled out Theo Walcott’s deflected first minute opener.
Following a goalless draw with Aston Villa, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is again likely to be concerned by his team’s lack of potency in the attacking third, while his opposite number David Moyes may feel that Everton could have gone on to claim all three points.
There were little signs of any struggles for Arsenal early on, as the returning Theo Walcott continued his case to be offered a the new contract he desires.
Walcott laid the ball into Aaron Ramsey, before continuing his run to receive a return ball into the box and curling a shot that deflected up off of Tony Hibbert to take it over the unmoved Tim Howard and inside the far post.
Arsenal were largely having the better of the early exchanges, but Everton gradually begun to get some joy in the final third.
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Fellaini showed the ability in the air that makes him such a constant threat to opposition defenses as he rose to head a head a left-wing corner at the far post that Wojciech Szczesny had to be alert to parry away.
In the 28th minute the Belgian demonstrated that he is far more than just a menace in the air as he struck Everton level. Bacary Sagna missed an opportunity to get the ball clear and the ball broke to Fellaini 25 yards out and the midfielder took a touch before curling it low around Thomas Vermaelen and into the corner.
Everton could even have been ahead at the break. Fellani was again involved as he flicked the ball on to Nikica Jelavic on the edge of the box. With his back to goal, the Croatian showed tremendous ability to turn past Mertesacker and get in on goal but, staring down Szczesny, he could only shoot left-footed over the bar.
The home side continued on the front foot after the break.
Steven Pienaar twice had shooting opportunities from the left, the first of which went narrowly wide of the target before Szczesny had to save low at his near post. Just moments after his stop the Polish goalkeeper was again forced to display his good reactions as he tipped over a powerful header from Sylvain Dustin following a cross by Baines.
While Moyes may feel that his side’s second-half performance warranted a victory, he is likely to be particularly frustrated that his side was denied the chance to score from the spot. Pienaar again got into the area down the inside left and this time he was brought down from behind by Mikel Arteta, but the referee failed to cede to the calls for a penalty.
Yet against the run of play, Arsenal came close to retaking the lead in the 68th minute. Walcott curled the ball in from the left and Olivier Giroud rose to try and direct the ball inside the far corner but just missed by the smallest of margins.
Tim Howard had some work to do as well as he produced a firm block from a well-struck Santi Cazorla effort.
As time ticked away, though, both sides lacked the incisiveness in the final third to snatch a winner. Giroud wasted perhaps the best chance as he ended an Arsenal break away by aiming a cross just over the head of the unmarked substitute Gervinho at the far post.