Seamus Coleman sets tone for Everton revival
Everton 2 Arsenal 1
There is a Merseyside derby next Monday that will define Christmas 2016 in the city of Liverpool, but in the meantime Ronald Koeman and Everton can at least say that they are back off the canvas and ready to face an old enemy with some of the confidence of their early-season form.
Ashley Williams' winning goal five minutes from the end inflicted upon Arsenal their first league defeat since the opening day of the season and it restored to Goodison Park some of the fervour that had been lacking in the opening stages of the game.
It was only the second win in 12 games for Koeman, a man under pressure - and not just for his Christmas tree decorations.
His team had fallen behind through a heavily deflected free-kick from Alexis Sanchez - given away by Williams and inadvertently steered past Maarten Stekelenburg by the same centre-half.
In those early stages it looked grim for Koeman. His team, heavily changed after defeat to Watford, gave up far too many chances in the early part of the game but gradually they came to life.
Seamus Coleman's equaliser set the stage for a much improved second-half performance and, when Williams' winner did arrive, it was not undeserved.
They survived a frantic end with Petr Cech pushed up for the late Arsenal corners and free-kicks, Phil Jagielka dismissed for a second yellow card when he fouled the substitute Lucas Perez, and a late Arsenal effort kicked off the line.
As for Arsene Wenger's team, they had faded away under the onslaught and, although they created chances in the first half, there were too few after the break and too little, too late when they were forced to chase the game.
The ground lost in the title race is not disastrous but it will be telling to see where the loss of their recent unbeaten run takes them.
The first half ended with James McCarthy adding Mesut Ozil to the list of Arsenal players whom he had left a little bit on after the ball had gone and for a moment the still waters of the German were disrupted and he wanted to go after the opponent who had proved a thorn in his side.
It was better than the alternative for Everton after what had threatened to be a half in which they could not land a punch on an Arsenal team, who used the counter-attack and scored within 20 minutes.
That was a calamitous episode for Everton and, coming on a run in which they had won one game in 11, looked like it could destabilise them further.
Sanchez's low free-kick clipped off Williams, wrong-footed Stekelenburg and there were heads in hands all-round the home contingent when it went in.
They had started badly: Leighton Baines was sold short by a Ross Barkley pass that let Sanchez in on goal.
Another early chance came for Ozil from Nacho Monreal's cut-back which the Arsenal playmaker uncharacteristically snatched at rather than guiding on target.
Everton's equaliser came from Baines' right-footed cross from the left, an inswinger that Laurent Koscielny might have got to were it not for McCarthy's decision to step across the Arsenal defender and prevent him reaching Coleman, unmarked in the middle of the area. The right-back had the relatively easy job of glancing his header past Petr Cech from close range
The second half saw much more of the kind of Everton that Goodison Park had hoped for this season and the noise was raised accordingly.
Wenger made two changes to try to give his team back a bit of the threat they had lost, but Everton were in no mood to surrender the initiative and the unmarked Williams headed in Ross Barkley's corner. (© Daily Telegraph, London)