Monday 19 February 2018

Walcott makes his point but Fellaini has the last laugh

Everton 1 Arsenal 1

Chris Bascombe

He may have been omitted from Arsenal's latest calendar, but Theo Walcott proved he can still be Arsene Wenger's poster boy with a goalscoring reminder of what his club may soon be missing. Walcott gave no hint of the contract disarray as he put his side ahead after just 50 seconds at Goodison Park last night.

Everton's mop-headed maestro Marouane Fellaini continued his imperious form with the equaliser, but Arsenal left Merseyside with a valuable point as both sides felt their Champions League credentials remained intact.

David Moyes had baulked at the suggestion that the teams are top-four rivals, but they headed into this fixture as natural competitors for a Champions League spot.

Whether that is down to Arsenal's decline or Everton's improvement will depend on the colour of your scarf. A large dollop of both has thrust these sides into the same battle, although Moyes was adamant there remains a gulf to be bridged. It was not especially noticeable here.

That said, Arsenal were the last team to inflict a league defeat on Everton at Goodison Park, as long ago as last March. Indeed, they love it on Merseyside, having also won on their last two visits to Anfield, and Walcott wasted no time maintaining that theme with a fine opening goal inside the first minute.

He exchanged passes with Aaron Ramsey before chipping Tim Howard, his precision shot finding the top corner. Well worth an extra 40 grand a week of anyone's money.

Wenger's delight was curbed by an injury to Laurent Koscielny a minute later. That was significant as Everton regained their composure with a visibly more direct approach, testing the physicality of the Arsenal defence.

Fellaini headed Leighton Baines' 17th minute corner at Wojciech Szczesny, but the Belgian's equaliser on 28 minutes came courtesy of Steven Pienaar's tenacity.

The South African pounced on Bacary Sagna's error, Fellaini took possession 20 yards out, and he placed his left footer into the bottom corner. It was a quality strike in keeping with the Belgian's impressive season.

Jelavic almost fashioned the lead after 39 minutes, volleying over from Fellaini's flicked header, as Everton started to look the most likely to claim the ascendancy.

Baines was outstanding, as much a left winger as left back, but it was a break down the flank from Jelavic which almost gave Everton a 49th minute lead.

The Croatian crossed for Steven Naismith who was unable to connect as he lunged into the six-yard box.

Baines was again the provider on 55 minutes, this time for Sylvain Distin, whose header was pushed clear by Szczesny, the Pole grateful the bullet was aimed directly at him.

Olivier Giroud was inches wide with a header on the hour and Cazorla tested Howard as the game opened up in the closing stages.

The winner never came, but Walcott had issued another reminder of one of the most important dates in the Arsenal calendar. The day they sort out his contract. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


Irish Independent

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