Fine effort to beat Gunners under the lights

By Michael Kenrick 13/12/2016  186 Comments  [Jump to last]

Enner Valencia makes his first league start since joining on loan from West Ham
Everton 2 - 1 Arsenal
Enner Valencia made his first Premier League start, two-and-a-half months after joining, while Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley were recalled to the starting XI.

James McCarthy came in for Gareth Barry who can no longer play three games in the space of nine days, while Aaron Lennon replaced Gerard Deulofeu. Kevin Mirallas dropped back to the bench to accommodate Valencia while Dominic Calvert-Lewin is named among the subs again.

Everton made the slowest and most tentative start imaginable, backing off their illustrious guests, ceding position, playing the ball backwards rather than forwards, taking no risks, doing everything possible to prevent the home side from getting sight of goal.

They held out for barely 18 minutes, and the first real Arsenal attack which was ended early when Jagielka fouled Coquelin and earned a yellow card. The Sanchez free-kick spun off Williams in the wall and Stekelenburg could not readjust to get all of his hand in the way to prevent it ending up in the Gwladys Street net.

In an advanced position down the right, Barkley and Valencia contrived to play pass-the-parcel rather than risk a cross into the crowded Arsenal area, and ended up turning possession over cheaply with no end product.

Coleman got forward but could only hit a defender and earn another corner, this one better from Barkley, headed well over by Valencia. A moment of better possession around the Arsenal area was spoilt by a lousy reverse ball from McCarthy and any impetus was lost.

Barkley needlessly passed to an Arsenal player but Lennon picked up the ball and ran forward, much to the approval of the increasingly frustrated crowd, only to scoop his cross behind. The Blues were now trying their best but the play simply wasn't good enough to create even a half-chance.

Barkley tried to play in Valencia at the far post but the ball spun away off the slick Goodison turf. Lukaku got the ball to feet from McCarthy but lashed his shot early, high and wide. But at least the Blues were taking the game forward, into Arsenal's half...

Barkley launched in a free-kick that Arsenal fumbled, Lennon snatching at the bouncing ball, which flew wide. At the other end, it was ping-pong in the Everton area from an Arsenal corner, and Everton were attacking again, but McCarthy stupidly stamped on and ankle after he was not awarded a free-kick for a nothing previous tumble, a yellow card from pure fume. Then, a quality cross from Baines, Coleman up like a swan, and a lovely glancing header down into the bottom corner to draw level, a nice simple, clever skillful goal from the full-backs, showing perhaps they are good enough!

Everton struggled a little after the break, and were lucky when Coleman gave the ball away and Ozil seemed to have a simple job to convert a fine cut-back but he stroked it over. At the other end, a fine run through the middle was ended abruptly and illegally. Baines and Barkley played the dummy, Barkley hitting the jumping Arsenal wall when more guile was required.

Stekelenburg was out smartly to cut out danger and collided heavily with Baines. Robles was immediately summoned from the bench, but his damaged knee seemed to recover after application of the magic sponge.

From the restart, Barkley took a shot across Cech's goal and inches wide. The Blues were making something of a game of it, Valencia trying to pick out Lukaku, who had positioned himself well enough but a defender intervened. At the other end, some strong defending was needed as the tempo of the game increased, a clearance to Lukaku controlled with all the skill of an injured elephant. Pressure was building on the Blues, and finally Mirallas was called on for Lennon.

The Blues did a bit of attacking without threatening before the Arsenal pressure resumed, Williams tackling well, and Lukaku getting released and running in from the half-way line but his shot deflected into the side netting, good effort from the big man.

Barkley danced past his marker and fired in a fine low, cross, but Lukaku had his back to goal and could not find a blue shirt with his lay-off. An Arsenal mistake and Mirallas broke free, to Lukaku, but they were just not quick enough to make a real chance of it, yet the Force was now with the Blues who were making a real game of it.

Arsenal got behind the Blues but Iwobi could only fluff it into the side netting. Meanwhile, a stunning move by Koeman, a debut for U23 star Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 19 years old, given all of 10 minutes plus to get a taste of the bright lights... on in place of Valencia.

The home side were attacking but perhaps flagging in energy and somewhat bereft of fresh ideas, as crosses were too easily anticipated by the Gunners defence. But Gueye looked to run in the channel off a throw-in, only for the ball to go through lamely to Cecch. McCarthy was cut down by Koscielny, the free-kick curled in by Baines superbly, and headed behind by Calvert-Lewin off a defender. From the corner, Jagielka lashed a snapshot goalwards only for Cech to pull off a miraculous save.

Another corner for Everton, swung in superbly by Barkley and headed down smartly at the far post by Williams, the ball bouncing up past Cech into the Arsenal net, much to the collective delight of the raucous Blues.

A tremendous atmosphere now beneath the Goodison lights, Stekenburg tested, with a looped in ball, then Funes Mori on for McCarthy to hold the fort for 4 added minutes.

Barkley broke into the area and fired at Cech, winning a corner, taken short and then back all the way to Stekelenburg. But Arsenal got the ball and attacked, Coleman had to head behind, and a corner needed defending, then Jagielka holding Perez, earned a second yellow card and red in the last minute of added time.

From the free-kick, a fine punch by Stekelenburg, then another brave punch, followed by and TWO desperate last-ditch clearances off the Everton line, then Mirallas appearing to foul in the area but Clattenburg could see he got the ball, as it broke for the Blues with Cech stranded, having come up for the corner. Fast-forward to the other end and Barkley set to score, then Mirallas, waiting too long for the ball to come to him, but neither could finish what should have been a goal on a plate.

A tremendous, frenetic finish, and it should really have been 3-1 after that madness, but it mattered not a jot, as the Blues notched up an excellent win over high-flying Arsenal (only their second defeat of the season... their first away from The Emirates in NINE MONTHS!), to maintain their unbeaten record this season at Goodison Park.

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