Everton 1 Arsenal 1: Robin to rescue but Wenger's title boast is shown up

29 January 2009 10:11
Robin Van Persie breathed life into Arsenal's

flagging title hopes with the most dramatic of equalisers two minutes into injury time at Goodison Park last night.

Arsenal looked on the point of being counted out, after trailing to a 61st-minute header from Tim Cahill, when Van Persie lifted them off the canvas with the sort of left-foot finish that has become his trademark.

Abou Diaby hoisted a long ball forward from deep inside his own half, and Van Persie moved clear of his marker, Tony Hibbert, and chested it down in one movement.



HIgh life: Tim Cahill outjumps Bacary Sagna to head home Everton's opener

Congratulations: Cahill is mobbed



There was still plenty to do, as his momentum took him away from goal and towards the corner of the six-yard area, but he made light of the tightest of angles to unleash a vicious volley that flew over Tim Howard before the startled Everton

keeper could lift his hands.

Wenger, a picture of agitation up to then as he paced round his technical area, arms crossed and features set in a permanent scowl, took off towards his celebrating players, punching the air and belatedly breaking into a beaming smile.

When the elation at salvaging an unlikely point subsides, though, he may have to face up to a harsh reality about his side's standing alongside the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and even Aston Villa.

A blanket of fog may have covered the ground from start to finish, but the Arsenal manager must still have seen enough to accept, however reluctantly, that the Barclays Premier League is about to pass him by once more.

Coming so close to defeat against an Everton side now unbeaten in nine games may not in itself team's fading title aspirations. The manner of their near-miss surely does, though.

On those increasingly frequent occasions when they have struggled to cope with an opponent's muscular approach, there has, at least, been a glimpse or two of the fluent passing style that Wenger still believes will prevail in the end. When they are bereft even of that, the omens are bleak indeed.

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With Denilson looking uninterested on one flank and Samir Nasri faring only marginally better on the other, and neither Alex Song nor Abou Diaby coming close to emulating injured Cesc Fabregas's influence in central midfield, Arsenal were forced to rely almost entirely on Van Persie's darting runs and eye for goal.

He duly delivered more than they deserved, but only after the Gunners were pushed to the brink by an Everton side who have topfour pretensions of their own after keeping six clean sheets in their nine-game sequence.



Last-gasp equaliser: Robin Van Persie celebrates after scoring in the 90th minute



Villa have topped that by reeling off seven wins and a draw from their last eight League games and reinforcing the belief they are ready to break up the established order at the top.

If anyone is to overhaul them and deny them a place in next season's Champions League, Everton look a better bet than Arsenal on last night's evidence.

Quicker to the ball and sharper in the tackle, they had the edge in all areas, most notably in the middle of defence, where Phil Jagielka once more stood out, and central midfield, where Marouane Fellaini's return from a two-match ban made all the difference.

Even up front, there was a case for hailing Cahill as the game's most dangerous striker - a close call, given Van Persie's contribution - as he again demonstrated why manager David Moyes believes the converted midfelder may have stumbled across his most effective position.

Influential comeback Everton's Marouane Fellaini

Van Persie almost made Everton pay for a reckless foul by Steven Pienaar in only the second minute as he marked out the sort of runup that has so often led to a spectacular set-piece goal this season and thundered a shot that looked bound for the top corner, until striking a defender's head in the wall and flying over.

Fellaini began to make his presence felt as he threatened to finish off a flowing left-flank move, only for Johan Djourou to reach Leighton Baines's near-post cross a fraction ahead of him.

For a team with their sights still fixed on top place, according to their manager, at least, there was a marked lack of urgency about Arsenal that looked like costing them dear when Cahill scored in typical fashion to claim the 100th goal of his career in the 61st minute. Baines did the hard work down the left, and when he hoisted a cross towards the penalty spot the sight of Cahill leaping above Gael Clichy left little room for doubt about the likely outcome.

Sure enough, the header had pace and accuracy as it flew past the diving Manual Almunia into the far corner.

Cahill threatened his 101st soon after with a fierce shot that cannoned off Almunia's chest to safety in the 81st minute, leaving Everton's lead looking dangerously slender as added time approached. It was duly wiped out by the persevering Van Persie, but the feeling remained that it may well prove too little too late.

 Everton 1 Arsenal 1: All the action as it happened

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England manager Fabio Capello set to recall Everton defender Phil Jagielka for Spain clash

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Source: Daily_Mail