Premier League – Van Persie snatches point for Arsenal
Robin van Persie volleyed a stunning stoppage-time equaliser as Arsenal salvaged a 1-1 draw against Everton at Goodison Park.
Makeshift striker Tim Cahill had earlier headed Everton in front with his 100th goal in English football (pictured).
A win would have moved David Moyes’s side to within two points of the fifth-placed Gunners, but the Toffees’ assault on the Champions League places was derailed by a moment of brilliance from Van Persie, who flashed his volley past Tim Howard from a tight angle.
On a dank, misty evening at Goodison Park, neither side did much to lift the gloom in the first hour.
Arsenal looked a pale shadow of their normal selves, barely mustering a single worthwhile effort on goal until Van Persie’s 92nd-minute intervention.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger restored several of the leading players rested for Sunday’s FA Cup game against Cardiff, while Gael Clichy came back following a ban.
The Toffees have coped admirably with their injury crisis, pressing Cahill into emergency action up front to good effect.
Despite the Australian’s knack for telling interventions, the Australian supported by the gangly Fellaini will never go down as one of the Premier League’s classic one-two punches and their first-half performance reflected this lack of attacking firepower.
After a brief flurry of early activity, Arsenal were pinned back into the their own half and could hardly get a kick,
So often they have played keep-ball as their opponents retreat further and further back; this time it was Arsene Wenger’s team chasing shadows and hitting aimless long clearances back to the opposition.
The problem was, as far as Everton were concerned, they created no genuine goalscoring chances. The closest they came was when the overlapping Leighton Baines crossed low from the left and Fellaini’s close-range effort was deflected for a corner.
At the other end, all Arsenal had to show for their first-half endeavours was a Denilson shot that went a yard wide from the edge of the box.
In increasingly murky conditions, the game was both difficult to see and difficult to watch.
Chances came at no less of a premium after the break. Cahill fired into the side-netting but soon afterwards broke the deadlock via a familiar, aerial route.
Baines crossed from the left and Cahill rose high above Clichy, heading past the helpless Manuel Almunia with total authority.
Cahill’s ability in the air is well-known, but nobody seems able to stop him getting forehead on ball. Much more of this and teams will have to start double-marking him
Van Persie glanced a header goalwards from the edge of the box but it was straight at Tim Howard, while Cahill volleyed at Almunia from 25 yards.
The Australian’s evening ended on a low note as he limped off three minutes from time, and Everton fans will pray the curse that has afflicted strikers Ayegbeni Yakubu, Louis Saha and James Vaughan has not also brought down Cahill.
Then came the unexpected twist as Arsenal, who had offered nothing, snatched point with a strike from Van Persie that looked more like it belonged in the Marco van Basten scrap book.