Arsenal 3-2 Everton: Spirited Gunners win entertaining clash to boost European hopes despite defensive issue
PUBLISHED: 18:29 23 February 2020 | UPDATED: 18:29 23 February 2020
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Arsenal beat Everton 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon to boost their chances of qualifying for Europe next season despite a poor defensive display.
The home side made the worst possible start as Dominic Calvert-Lewin's bicycle kick put the visitors ahead inside 60 seconds after some poor defending from a free-kick, but the Gunners fought back in spirited fashion.
Eddie Nketiah got them level on 26 minutes when he turned home Bukayo Saka's cross before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put them ahead on 33 minutes with a cool finish from David Luiz's through ball.
They couldn't take their lead into the break though as Richarlison turned the ball home in first-half injury time, with Arsenal left to rue more sloppy defending.
The hosts weren't behind for long though as Aubameyang got his second of the day just seconds after half-time as he headed home Nicolas Pepe's cross, securing all three points and keeping them in the hunt for a European place.
Mikel Arteta made six changes from the side that beat Olympiacos on Thursday night with Sokratis, Saka, Matteo Guendouzi, Joe Willock, Gabriel Martinelli and Alexandre Lacazette replaced by Hector Bellerin, Sead Kolasinac, Dani Ceballos, Mesut Ozil, Nicolas Pepe and Eddie Nketiah.
The Gunners made the worse possible start as they found themselves behind inside a minute after failing to defend a free-kick.
Arteta's men switched off at the back as Gylfi Sigurdsson floated in a free-kick, with David Luiz's header falling straight to Calvert-Lewin whose acrobatic finish beat Bernd Leno and found the bottom corner.
The hosts tried to find a quick response and went close as Bellerin powered a shot over from the edge of the box, but they could have been further behind when ex-Arsenal man Alex Iwobi drove a shot wide when well placed.
Arsenal then suffered a big blow on 18 minutes as Sead Kolasinac - who had just returned from injury - was forced off with what looked to be serious shoulder injury following a clash with Djibril Sidibé.
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The Gunners did find the equaliser they were looking for on 26 minutes with a goal made in their Hale End Academy.
Saka - who had come on to replace Kolasinac - was allowed too much time and space, with his inviting cross finding Nketiah who ghosted between Yerry Mina and Mason Holgate to turn the ball past Jordan Pickford in the Everton goal.
Arsenal hit the front again on 33 minutes and took a lead they deserved after an improved display following the early setback.
Luiz made up for his error as he was allowed the space to bring the ball into midfield, spotting the run of Aubameyang and playing the perfect pass through the channel. The club captain raced through, keeping his cool to slot his effort into the far corner and turn the game on its head.
They couldn't hold onto their lead though as Everton equalised just seconds before half-time after more questionable defending inside the penalty area.
A corner was only cleared as far as Sigurdsson with his shot bouncing off the turf and high into the chilly night's sky. Mina then beat Shkodran Mustafi in the air and the Colombian's header landed at the feet of Richarlison who just turned the ball beyond Leno to send the teams into the break all-square at 2-2.
The Gunners didn't let that setback stop them though as they went ahead just seconds after the restart as Aubameyang got his second of the afternoon.
Pepe did well down the right, getting the ball back onto his favoured left foot and crossing for the skipper who did brilliantly to beat Sidibe to the ball and get his header on target, with Pickford left helpless as the ball nestled into the net.
A lively game then went somewhat flat, with the best chance coming just after the hour mark as Calvert-Lewin forced an important low save from Leno after Arsenal lost the ball deep in their own half.
Arsenal had Leno to thank for keeping them ahead once again as he made a superb reaction save to somehow keep out Calvert-Lewin's close-range effort on 72 minutes, before stopping a low Richarlison shot with his feet minutes later.
The Gunners nearly wrapped up the win late on as they pressed high up the pitch to win the ball back, but Nketiah's curling effort came down off the crossbar and bounced to safety.
Arteta's men held on despite late Everton pressure, securing an important victory that gives them further hope in their quest for a European place.