Sunday 24 September 2017

Koscielny tips the scales as Gunners overcome injustice

Arsenal 2
Everton 1

Laurent Koscielny. Photo: Getty Images
Laurent Koscielny. Photo: Getty Images

Jason Burt

Just as Arsenal appeared to be about to slip out of the title race through a goal mired in confusion and controversy, they dug deep to secure a victory which appeared beyond them when Louis Saha's first-half goal was permitted.

Was it offside or wasn't it? The Everton striker was a clear yard beyond the last defender, but did Laurent Koscielny's outstretched boot, diverting the pass, represent a second phase of play? Somehow, under the laws, it appeared that it did and the goal stood.

The anger brimmed around the stadium with referee Lee Mason causing further annoyance by then appearing to check for confirmation from the big screens, while the fans raged throughout the evening.

The tension continued downe the tunnel at half-time and, afterwards Everton boss David Moyes claimed Cesc Fabregas should have been sent off for comments made towards the referee at half-time.

"Fabregas' comments to the officials when he was coming down the tunnel warranted a sending off. I am not going to repeat what they were," Moyes asserted. "I won't go into what they were, but if you had said it on the pitch, you should have been off like that, so what is the difference when you are coming down the tunnel?"

It was bilious and edgy from the first whistle and only dissipated with two goals in five minutes, with Koscielny earning a little piece of revenge with the winning header.

Without the injured Samir Nasri, Arsenal lacked their most dynamic performer of this campaign and also found Everton's five-man midfield, bolstered by Jack Rodwell, difficult to circumnavigate or dissect.

Finally they got a break when Alex Song stretched to reach Bacary Sagna's first-time pass. He was challenged by Johnny Heitinga, but the ball ricocheted to the onrushing Theo Walcott on the corner of the penalty area and he drove in a low shot that Tim Howard blocked.

Then there followed the most extraordinary controversy centring on assistant referee Stephen Child.

Seamus Coleman ran forward for Everton, but when he attempted to pick out Saha, the striker had already clearly drifted offside. Coleman's pass was intercepted by Koscielny, with a deflection, but it ran through to Saha who turned and slammed a low shot in from the edge of the area.

As the ball had come off Koscielny, had it -- under the most recent interpretation of offside -- allowed Saha to play on? And for that to happen didn't Koscielny's touch need to be deliberate?

Arsenal's protests sparked a delay and Mason eventually consulted with Child, but the goal stood with Arsene Wenger incredulous.

Movement

Arsenal were struggling to cope with the pace and movement of Saha and the muscle of Marouane Fellaini, while Diniyar Bilyaletdinov gave Arsenal a let-off when wafting a leg at Leighton Baines' whipped cross.

Arsenal -- and their fans -- needed to regain their composure. There was too much fury. They appeared to be drifting to defeat, but then found an equaliser. Fabregas chipped the ball into the area, Rodwell headed it up and it fell behind him to Andrey Arshavin who volleyed it beyond Howard.

It energised Arsenal and Howard superbly pushed out Van Persie's free-kick. From that corner, the Dutch striker crossed deep and Koscielny, free and unmarked, headed home at the far post to turn this contest around.

Everton tried to rally and pushed on their own substitutes -- however it was to little effect. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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