Fortunate win over Everton moves Arsenal closer to Manchester City
16:05 01 March 2015
Arsenal 2 Everton 0
Goals from Olivier Giroud and Tomas Rosicky secured an unconvincing victory that took Arsenal within four points of second-placed Manchester City.
Giroud, who was taken off after a catalogue of misses in the midweek defeat by Monaco, wasted another opportunity against Everton before volleying in Santi Cazorla’s 39th-minute corner.
And, although the Gunners looked second best for long periods of the game, they clinched the points when substitute Rosicky’s effort deflected past Tim Howard a minute from time.
Everton began brightly, but they never seriously threatened to test David Ospina, apart from one opportunity that resulted from sloppy Gunners defending.
Laurent Koscielny’s careless pass for fellow centre-back Gabriel Paulista was easily snapped up by the onrushing Romelu Lukaku, but Ospina’s quick reaction averted the danger.
Arsenal created absolutely nothing in the opening 25 minutes, but Giroud should have put them ahead soon after that, directing a close-range header wide from Alexis Sanchez’s teasing cross.
Cazorla’s dummy then created a chance for Hector Bellerin, who was foiled by Phil Jagielka’s lunging block – but the home side finally gained the lead six minutes before half-time.
Gabriel’s timely challenge on Lukaku set up a counter-attack from which the Gunners won a corner and Cazorla’s low ball found Giroud, who met it with a right-foot volley into the bottom corner.
And it needed a fingertip save from Howard, who leapt to claw Cazorla’s dipping drive over the bar, to prevent Arsenal from doubling their lead just before half-time.
But the Toffees put their hosts under pressure at the start of the second half, forcing three corners in quick succession and Gareth Barry went close with a scissor-kick as Arsenal struggled to clear their lines.
Ospina was called into action again when Ross Barkley whipped a cross to the near post and Lukaku wrapped his left foot around the ball, but the Gunners keeper managed to tip the volley over.
On-loan Tottenham winger Aaron Lennon came on to replace Kevin Mirallas and almost levelled 18 minutes from time, firing at Ospina after Seamus Coleman had broken and supplied a cross from the right.
Arsenal offered little at the other end, with Mesut Ozil firing over from distance and Cazorla’s effort, after a deft one-two with Giroud, resulting in the same outcome.
Ozil, who was anonymous for the majority of the game, might have put victory beyond doubt when Sanchez set him up late on, but Jagielka leapt in to divert the German’s shot over the bar.
However, another deflection off the Everton skipper, from Rosicky’s shot, sealed his side’s fate – and Giroud could even have added a third, heading Bellerin’s cross wide in injury time.
Arsenal: Ospina; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs; Coquelin (Chambers 89); Oxlade-Chamberlain (Rosicky 82), Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez (Welbeck 87); Giroud.