Everton 2-5 Arsenal: Gunners win in Goodison romp
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal beat Everton 5-2 in Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off at Goodison Park after falling behind to a superlative goal from Wayne Rooney.
Rooney’s goal brought back memories of a similar goal he scored here 15 years ago to launch his career – but Arsene Wenger’s men fought back to win the game after Nacho Monreal equalised five minutes before half time.
A rare headed goal from Mesut Ozil put the Gunners 2-1 up before Idrissa Gana Gueye was sent off for a late stamp on the German – as Alexandre Lacazette underlined the folly by making it three shortly afterwards before Aaron Ramsey made it 4-1 with minutes left.
There was just time for Oumar Niasse to rob Petr Cech and slot home in front of an empty net – but in truth the game was long over for the home side by then as Alexis Sanchez made it 5-2 right on the whistle.
It was a result that lifted Wenger after last week’s dismal late loss to Watford that left an under fire manager, restless natives and an underperforming team – and that was just Everton.
Arsenal for their part made ten changes from the hard-fought victory in Belgrade on Thursday against Red Star with only Petr Cech keeping his place, with three changes from Watford last time out in the Premier League.
Which Arsenal side would turn up at grand old Goodison Park on Sunday? The side that showed character – or Troy Deeney’s favourite word ‘cojones’ – in Serbia, as well as tactical discipline to carve out a determined victory?
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Or the side that meekly surrendered against Marco Silva’s buzzing Hornets at Vicarage Road? The opening stages suggested the former as Aaron Ramsey fired a low shot across the promising Jordan Pickford that fizzed narrowly past his left-hand post.
Moments later Alexander Lacazette drilled a low shot at the former Sunderland shot-stopper’s near post. The 23-year-old proved equal to the task and he batted it away.
In a hectic opening Alexis Sanchez curled a free kick that Pickford stopped but did not gather. He then showed great anticipation to bravely block Ramsey’s follow-up effort.
Ramsey then fired a long low shot that Pickford stopped.
The memory was stirred on the long drive up of past deeds between these two great clubs. Great matches peopled by great players doing great things in evocative surroundings.
Wayne Rooney has never been one for statistics or dry facts but even he must have considered the superb goal against Arsenal here at Goodison, 15 long years ago that launched his career.
But even this born-again Blue-nose hero could not have dared dream he would recreate such a special strike.
12 minutes had elapsed in the match – to go with 15 years and three days when Rooney struck.
Despite early Arsenal dominance Per Mertesacker played a sloppy ball on the edge of his own box to Granit Xhaka. The inconsistent Swiss midfielder was slow to react and was immediately disposed by the diminutive Idrissa Gana Gueye.
The 28-year-old former Aston Villa player from Senegal instantly fed Rooney.
The bulldog from Merseyside – one of the last ‘street’ footballers England has produced – still had work to do. Just as he had in 2002. But back then it was the famed Arsenal back four he had to contend with. Fast forward a decade and a half and all he had to do was pick the ball out of his feet and lift a 20 yard curler past a despairing Cech.
It was joy unconfined at Goodison Park as Rooney officially announced his return – just as his wonder strike at the turn of this century officially announced his entrance.
But if Wenger’s team have earned a reputation for losing concentration then so to have Ronald Koeman’s Toffees.
Sanchez played the ball to Xhaka outside the box. There didn’t seem to be much danger but the former Borussia Moenchengladbach man was not closed down so opted to shoot.
The ball flew through a clutch of legs that may have left Pickford unsighted as he could only parry as on rushing Nacho Monreal struck a sweet left-footed shot into the net to make it 1-1 on 40 minutes.
There was still time for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to nudge Monreal into the stands. It was petulant and reflected badly on his temperament on the player many believe can be a leading star for England in the years to come.
But as referee Craig Pawson blew for half time it Rooney – who was the future once – showed a far more controlled frustration by simply shaking his head at the equaliser as he strode off.
The second half started scrappily as players adjusted to the high winds. Before travelling Gunners fans were treated to the rare sight of a headed goal from Ozil to make it 2-1.
Lacazette fed Sanchez down the left flank who crossed into a busy box. Ozil showing hitherto unexpected anticipation beat the agricultural Phil Jagiekla to the ball to send it flying into the net.
The Arsenal players celebrated Ozil’s headed goal wildly in front of ecstatic fans in the away end but it was difficult to tell who was more stunned – the shocked Everton defence who had switched off again. Or Arsenal as a collective of fans and players who simply couldn’t’ believe the dilettante German had notched a header goal – in the cauldron of Goodison Park of all places.
Gueye then showed his frustration by leaving a foot in on Xhaka to receive a red car from referee Pawson. It was late, it was dirty and it was stupid. It also cost his team the match.
Moments later Ozil – who was having one of those influential games which make you forget his foibles – crossed for Lacazette to fire home to make it 3-1.
As the clock ticked down there was time for the away fans to sing Wilshere’s name loudly as the Hitchin midfielder replaced Lacazette.
Ramsey then made it 4-1 before Niasse netted Everton’s second – but in truth the game was long lost for Everton by then as Sanchez made it 5-2 on the whistle.
For embattled manager Koeman it may be that the game is up on his tenure at this grand old club too.