Report: Arsenal 0-0 Everton
A full-blooded tussle at the Emirates stadium ended all square as Arsenal had to settle for a point against fellow top-four challengers Everton.
The contest may have been full-blooded but it was hardly full of goal-scoring opportunities and in truth, the half-chances which came Arsenal’s way were spurned by leading striker Olivier Giroud.
It was a draw which favoured neither side’s ambitions to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Then again, it hardly did any damage to those hopes either.
Towards the end, and certainly for much of the second-half, Arsenal proved to be the side more eager for a win, but David Moyes’ organized men could have been defending a lead anyway had Pienaar not failed to snatch an early goal for the visitors.
Fresh minutes after kick-off, a pass which split the Arsenal defense found the South African up against a rushing Szczesny, but Pienaar chose to smash his effort at first glance as it sailed over the bar to the relief of the Emirates stadium.
Everton did get a second bite of the cherry to inflict an early deficit on the Gunners as Anichebe was handed a similar sniff at goal. This time though, only a vital intercepting tackle from Kierran Gibbs stopped the striker from beating Szczesny who nearly fumbled his save.
Indeed, until the 24th minute when Gibbs fired over a decent long-range effort at the other end – Arsenal’s first meaningful shot at goal – it had been a gritty battle in which Everton had carved out the better chances.
But neither side had engineered a cleaner sight at the back of the net than the one Aaron Ramsey put on the plate for Giroud five minutes before the break . Santi Cazorla teed up the Welshman on the fright flank and Ramsey whipped in a cross perfectly waiting for an arriving Giroud to poke home with Everton’s defenders well behind the pace.
But from about 10 yards out, Giroud could not find his composure and blasted the ball well wide off the far post. At that point, it was apparent that the hosts had taken until the stroke of half-time to pile the pressure.
Wenger’s men certainly brought that momentum into the second-half but not even the introduction of Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain for Walcott and Wilshere with 20 minutes to go could unlock the deadlock. There were moments though, and Giroud was in the thick of the action once again as he agonizingly failed to repeat the trick of that second goal against Norwich on Saturday, narrowly losing the wrestle this time to sweep home a cut-back cross with the goal gaping.
The second best chance arrived when the Frenchman was found with room and time in the box to pick his spot, but the former Montpellier striker controlled and then whipped the ball into the stands with his weaker foot.
That was simply the night right there. In a game of such scarce moments, Arsenal paid for not being clinical when a chance dropped for them.