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v Wolfsburg

Thursday 18 September K.O. 20:05



Goodison Park | 21st March 2012 20:00

Everton v Arsenal

Everton suffered their first home defeat since early January as Thomas Vermaelen's early goal settled a topsy-turvy contest at Goodison Park.

The hosts enjoyed large spells of possession - particularly after the break - but couldn't find a reply to the Belgian's eighth-minute header.

The result was more than a touch harsh on the Blues who - hunting a first victory against their guests since 2007 - saw a clear goal ruled offside and were left continually frustrated by the linesman's flag.

Steven Pienaar, available again after being cup-tied for the visit of Sunderland, was recalled in place of the injured Seamus Coleman, while Tony Hibbert replaced Phil Neville at right-back.

Distin gets the clearance inSylvain Distin gets the clearance in

The players of both sides emerged from the tunnel in t-shirts baring the name of ex-Gunner Fabrice Muamba and a period of applause followed as football again demonstrated its support for the 23-year-old Bolton man in the wake of his heart attack on the pitch at Tottenham. 

A warm reception was also afforded to Mikel Arteta as he made his first Goodison outing since departing the Club last August.

When play got underway, Arsenal were quickly into their stride.

Indeed, they should have taken the lead when Robin van Persie headed down for Aaron Ramsey eight yards out. With time and space to pick his spot, the midfielder somehow thrashed his effort wildly off target.

The Wales international was presented with an immediate opportunity to right his wrong and might well have done but for a lunging block from Sylvain Distin.

Everton players in Muamba t-shirtsEverton players in Muamba t-shirts

The signs were there though and, from the resulting corner, the visitors made their early pressure count.

Van Persie swung it in and it was Vermaelen who managed to skip away from Marouane Fellaini and plant the ball home with his head.  

The goal momentarily rocked Everton and they were fortunate not to find themselves two down within 60 seconds of the restart. This time the ball was threaded through to Van Persie, but after working space for his trusty left foot, the Dutchman saw his effort beaten away by Tim Howard.  

When Everton's first chance finally arrived it did so for Leon Osman, but the stand-in skipper rushed into an ambitious header when he might have been better served to bide his time.

It set the tone for a spell in which Everton were repeatedly wasteful, though they had every reason to be aggrieved when they finally sliced open the Arsenal rearguard with a move more reminiscent of their guests. It resulted in Royston Drenthe slotting the ball past Wojciech Szczesny but the Dutchman - two yards onside - saw his celebrations cruelly cut short by the linesman's flag.

Fellaini strides away from ArtetaFellaini strides away from Arteta

The Blues' sense of injustice was only intensified when the on-loan Real Madrid man was then wrongly halted in his tracks once more; a third misjudged outing of the flag before half time had Goodison howling.

Moyes' men unquestionably had reason to feel aggrieved and they emerged for the second half with a renewed vigour.

Pienaar was soon putting Nikica Jelavic in behind Vermaelen but the Belgian recovered and - despite the Croat's protestations - fairly regained possession. 

Van Persie then volleyed a Kieran Gibbs knock down against the post but it only drove Everton forward in greater numbers.

The hosts' best spell duly followed but a chance to truly test Szczesny proved elusive.

Leon Osman and Nikica Jelavic on patrolLeon Osman and Nikica Jelavic on patrol

Jelavic certainly felt he may have got more when he was felled by Laurent Koscielny in the box, but again the decision went in favour of the visitors, who themselves remained a threat on the break and forced a corner when Howard had to parry another effort from Ramsey.

Drenthe then fizzed one over the crossbar from the edge of the box before making way for Victor Anichebe as part of a double switch which also saw Magaye Gueye replace skipper Osman.

But three points are all so precious for Arsenal as their battle with rivals Tottenham continues and it showed in the way they assiduously ran down the clock.

Everton will wonder what could have been. Their search for joy against the Gunners goes on.



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