Arsenal beat Everton to go top of the Premier League

Laurent Koscielny heads Arsenal's second goal against Everton

Laurent Koscielny heads Arsenal's second goal against Everton - Credit: Archant

Arsenal 2 Everton 1

Two goals in two minutes lifted Arsenal to the top of the Premier League for the first time in 18 months with a hard-fought win over Everton.

Olivier Giroud, who was recalled to the starting line-up for the first time in a month, headed the Gunners into a 36th-minute lead before Laurent Koscielny doubled their advantage soon afterwards.

Ross Barkley’s deflected effort reduced the deficit before half-time, but the Gunners did enough to secure their fifth successive victory in all competitions and go top – at least until Manchester City play on Sunday.

With the rain teeming down, both sides laboured on a heavy, sodden surface and struggled to create any clear scoring opportunities – on target, at least.

Arsenal went close from corners, with Giroud and Gabriel heading wide, while Mesut Ozil did force a save from Tim Howard – only for referee Lee Mason to pull play back for a free-kick anyway.

The visitors’ only chance of the opening half-hour fell to defender John Stones, who scuffed a first-time volley wide after Petr Cech had fumbled Aaron Lennon’s attempt.

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But Everton’s failure to defend crosses cost them two goals in as many minutes, with Ozil floating in a measured ball for Giroud to steal in front of Howard and glance his header into the net.

And the Toffees were all at sea again when Santi Cazorla whipped a free-kick into the danger zone and Koscielny headed home his first goal of the season.

But the visitors were firmly back in the game when Barkley found the net two minutes before the interval, cracking a left-foot shot that hit Gabriel and wrong-footed Cech.

However, the Gunners came out stronger at the start of the second half and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain twice played Alexis Sanchez through, but Howard proved equal to the task.

The lively Oxlade-Chamberlain also teed up Giroud for a volley that was turned behind by the Everton goalkeeper, while Ozil also went close to extending his side’s advantage.

Giroud might have made it 3-1 with 20 minutes to go, rattling the bar after Ozil had teed him up – but Everton almost levelled soon afterwards as Brendan Galloway’s diving header flew wide.

The Toffees continued to threaten and hit the woodwork themselves when Gareth Barry swept in a deep cross to the head of the towering Romelu Lukaku, whose effort clipped the bar.

In an end-to-end finish, Cech twice denied Gerard Deulofeu, while Mathieu Flamini headed straight at Howard and Ozil hit the post before Barry was sent off in injury time, earning his second yellow card with a lunge on Kieran Gibbs.

Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Flamini 81), Ozil, Sanchez (Gibbs 89); Giroud.

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