Everton 3 Arsenal 0: The Gunners Champions League Hopes Hangs on a Thin Thread
The battle line for the final Champions League qualification spot was drawn and Goodison Park was the venue for a crucial clash between Everton and Arsenal. With the exception of Kieran Gibbs that was replaced by Nacho Monreal, Arsene Wenger opted for the same squad that earned a creditable draw against Manchester City.
The home side drew first blood when Leon Osman latched on to Leighton Baines pass and blasted a one-timed shot that sailed effortlessly over the bar. Arsenal responded with two poor shots from Lukas Podolski that was far off the mark. Osman got booked for a reckless challenge on Bacary Sagna but he picked up a knock and was replaced by Ross Barkley.
The match opener arrived when Baines tore Arsenal’s defence open with a peach of a pass to Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian’s shot was saved by Szczesny but Steven Naismith was on hand to fire in the rebound to send Goodison Park into raptures. Naismith almost made it two but Szczesny was alert to make a smart stop.
Sagna managed to get a good cross to Olivier Giroud but the Frenchman fired a tame shot wide. On the other end, Kevin Mirallas skipped past Santi Cazorla with consummate ease before blasting a shot that was saved by Szczesny.
A bad day for Arsenal got worse when Mirallas teed up Lukaku and he was allowed to run at the defense before smashing a shot past the hapless Szczesny to make it two. Podolski fired a shot on the bounce but Howard topped it over the bar.
Things got worse when Flamini miscontrolled a simple pass and tackled a player, leaving the ref no choice but to brandish his 10th yellow card of the season, which ultimately means that he’d miss the games against Wigan and West Ham.
Cazorla lofted a cross that hit James McCarthy on his arm but Arsenal’s penalty appeals fell on deaf ears. Sagna closed down Mirallas in his box and the Belgian lost the ball and it fell kindly to Giroud that fired a shot straight at Howard for the goalie to make a simple save.
Sagna dallied on the ball further up the pitch and Mirallas teed up Naismith whose attempt was blocked by Szczesny but in his bid to block Mirallas from playing the ball into an empty net, Mikel Arteta scored an unfortunate own goal.
With the game done and dusted, Wenger summoned the Ox and a returning Aaron Ramsey for Podolski and Flamini. Shortly afterwards, Yaya Sanogo replaced the ineffetual Giroud.
Late on, Ramsey sent Sanogo through on goal but he was ruled off for offside.
Wenger was barraged with a lot of questions in regard to his team’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League and he wasn’t as confident as you’d expect but he stated that his lads would fight for it.
A title challenge has turned into a Champions League qualification scrap and as this point in time, Arsenal’s Champions League hopes are hanging on a thin thread.
What a shame.