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Everton 1 - 2 Arsenal: match report

0 - 1 Sagna 36'
0 - 2 Fabregas 48'
1 - 2 Cahill 89'

Arsenal were at times superb and at others sloppy as they held on during a late Everton blizzard to win 2-1 at Goodison Park today.

The opening ten minutes tilted in Everton's favor, Mikael Arteta slamming a free kick into the Arsenal wall.  Samir Nasri had a shot deflected on ten minutes before Everton stormed back and Tim Cahill put a weak header over the bar.

Johnny Heitinga, holding in the center of midfield, started getting a little chippy, and earned a yellow card after 22 minutes as Arsenal was in the ascendancy.  Arshavin mazed his way only to unleash a shot way over the bar as Arsenal began to string passes together on the edge of the area, looking for a finish.

And it would come from the unlikeliest of sources, when it finally came.  Samir Nasri unleashed a wicked drive from 25 yards that Tim Howard parried aside.  Arshavin tracked down the rebound on the right, twisted, and cut it back for Bacary Sagna.  The right back took one touch and unleashed a laser from twelve yards that gave Tim Howard no chance.  1-0 to the Arsenal, ten minutes left in the first half.

Everton looked to generate a response before half-time, but their sustained pressure never made it to Lukasz Fabianski as Arsenal's defense (featuring Marouane Chamakh) managed to clear everything away.  Just before halftime, Louis Saha managed to put a header towards the post that Fabianski somehow saved, and good old Howard Webb gave Arsenal a goal kick instead of the corner that Everton wanted.  Halftime lingered and arrived.

The second half brought changes, David Moyes bringing on Jack Rodwell for Johnny Heitinga and Arsène Wenger opting to use Denilson in place of Jack Wilshere.  Denilson made an immediate impact, threading a pass through to Cesc Fabregas on the edge of the box.  Fabregas slipped it over to Nasri Chamakh, who completed the 1-2, chipping it back to the captain to slam home at the far post on the half-volley in the 48th minute.  2-0 early in the second half: too soon to say it was put away, but a much better situation to be in than Arsenal have been since the Manchester City match.

Arsenal slowly asserted control of the second half, finally finding their possession game.  Sadly, even as they managed to string passes together in the midfield, their finishing abandoned them again.  Nasri blazed through on goal as Everton's defense fell away on 60 minutes, but could not finish past the onrushing Howard.  Shortly thereafter, Fabregas released Arshavin on the right, and the Russian lashed a low cross in front of goal that Marouane Chamakh slid in for and put five feet over the crossbar from three yards out, somehow.  It was a terrible miss on a sitter, and 3-0 would have more or less assured the game for the Gunners.

As it was, the miss didn't hurt them too much, at least right away.  Everton failed to make much happen even after they brought on Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford for Mikael Arteta and Phil Neville, at least until Beckford collected a ball over the top, turned, and tried to curl a shot in at the far post.  Fabianski was equal to the task, and pushed the shot around the post.  This shot, in the 80th minute, signaled the storm that was about to break over Arsenal's shores.

From that shot forward, Arsenal could not escape their own half.  Often they were guilty of overelaborating, but even when they did clear upfield, Everton sent the ball back in immediately.

The pressure finally paid off as Everton won a corner.  They played it short, and Steven Pienaar sent a cross towards the far post.  Louis Saha climbed over the back of Alex Song, illegally perhaps, and knocked the ball down for Tim Cahill to slam home (who else, really).  89 minutes in, 2-1, and Everton were given a generous four minutes to look for an equalizer.

They started in their quest much as they had finished, Rodwell's effort blocked, before Tomas Rosicky shepherded the ball out of play for a goal kick in the 93rd minute.  Arsenal finally reasserted control, keeping Everton at bay for the last minute.  Howard Webb blew for full time, three more valuable road points on the board for the Gunners.  Now if they can start improving their home form, things will be looking pretty good, as Chelsea were defeated 3-0 at Stamford Bridge later in the day by Sunderland.

Two points off the pace, in second all alone.  Time to keep marching forward.