By Richard Clarke at Goodison Park
Arsenal and Everton shared the spoils at Goodison Park on Wednesday night.
Theo Walcott put the visitors ahead after only 52 seconds but David Moyes’ determined side ground their way back into the game and leveled just before the half-hour when Marouane Fellaini buried a low shot from distance.
Both teams had chances in the second half – Wojciech Szczesny saved from Sylvain Distin’s thunderous header while Tim Howard pawed aside Aaron Ramsey’s shot.
This was a pacy, powerful and dramatic game between two sides who seem evenly matched right now. A draw was undoubtedly a fair result.
Everton will argue they had more chances and more possession but Arsenal were stronger in the closing stages.
Wenger’s men dropped down the Premier League table with this draw but they retain their unbeaten run, which has grown to six games in all competitions.
Positives and negatives – it was that kind of night.
Wenger made four changes from the side that started at Villa Park on Saturday. Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna, Jack Wilshere and Walcott came in. Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dropped to the bench. Lukas Poldolski was feeling under the weather and was rotated.
Arsenal were ahead before the crowd had settled in their seats. Walcott collected the ball on the right-hand side. He shrugged off a couple of challenges, exchanged passes with Ramsey on the edge of the area and guided the ball into the top corner. There was a helpful deflection but it still counted as the England international’s 10th goal of the season.
Of course, the strike was the perfect start for Arsenal but they suffered a blow a couple of minutes later when Laurent Koscielny injured himself making a clearance. He hobbled off and Gibbs came on at left-back with Vermaelen moving into the middle.
Everton had been stunned by the goal and it took them 10 minutes to respond.
But respond they did.
Szczesny beat away a cross from Leighton Baines at the near post. Then, on the quarter-hour, the same player supplied a deep corner to Fellaini at the far post. The muscular midfielder made firm contact with his head but he angled the ball into the ground and Szczesny dealt with the danger.
Vermaelen fired a free-kick through the wall and Howard just about held on with Olivier Giroud lurking.
But Everton had now found the feet and were hassling Arsenal out of their stride. Snappy challenges dispossessed the visitors at crucial times and, just before the half-hour, that pressing play brought the equaliser.
Steven Pienaar caught Arteta in possession and Bacary Sagna’s errant clearance fell to Fellaini 25 yards out.
The Belgian buried a low, accurate shot into the far corner.
Everton had expended a lot of energy in pursuit of the equaliser and, as a consequence, Arsenal improved in the latter stages of the first half.
That said, the clearest chance came to Everton. Fellaini’s flick fell to Nikica Jelavic, who fooled Mertesacker to go momentarily clear 12 yards out.
Thankfully for Arsenal he blazed - wasteful and woefully – over the bar.
The visitors continued to attack until the whistle but, when it blew, parity was justified.
The game had been played at a fierce pace. It did not let up at the start of the second half.
Gibbs denied Steven Naismith at one end with a fine sliding challenge, seconds later Sagna’s shot was being smothered. It was end-to-end stuff.
On the hour, Szczesny saved from Pienaar then threw up a hand to deny a thunderous far-post header from Sylvain Distin. After that Fellaini saw a low shot stopped by the Polish keeper.
The home side were starting to look the superior team once again. Arsenal had plenty of possession but they were not as effective offensively.
In the 65th minute, the visitors did go close. Walcott floated over a cross and Giroud flicked a header inches past the far post.
It was the beginning of a recovery. Ramsey’s innocuous-looking shot nearly caught out Howard at the far post. Then the keeper beat away a long-range effort from Cazorla.
Straight after Szczesny saved Felliani’s free-kick, Wenger threw on Gervinho for Ramsey. The Ivorian might have buried Giroud’s cross just after coming on but the ball was inches too high.
Jelavic fired ferociously across goal in the dying minutes and Gibbs just avoided turning the ball into his own net.
In injury time, Szczesny batted the ball away from Jelavic and Arsenal turned defence into attack only for Jagielka to deny Gervinho as the substitute burst into the area.
But, at the final whistle, these two teams remained level.
Referee: Michael Oliver
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