Mesut Ozil celebrates with teammates after scoring against Everton in their English Premier League game, December 8. Reuters
A ding-dong battle of the highest order - technical quality, attacking verve and solid defence, all in full view. The end result an epic English Premier League heavyweight battle between Arsenal and Everton at the Emirates ending 1-1, a draw that was pulsating, vibrating and thrilling throughout the 90 minutes.
Mesut Ozil looked to have given Arsenal a thrilling win late in the game only for Barcelona loanee Gerard Deulofeu to snatch a point for Everton, a deserved one it must be said.
The Premier League always promises a spectacle and a spectacle of the top drawer it was, as both sides stood toe-to-toe in a see-saw battle which ended all square.
The draw means Arsenal extend their lead at the top to five points from Liverpool and Chelsea, while Everton, who could have gone level with their Merseyside rivals and Blues with a victory, are fifth on 28 points from 15 matches, seven behind their opponents of Sunday.
There were no surprises in either team's starting XI, with Arsene Wenger and Roberto Martinez going with their strongest sides.
With two teams that like to keep possession and with it control the tempo, it was always going to be a tactically astute game with the dominant team likely to be the one that holds the bulk of the ball.
Surprisingly it was not Arsenal, in front of their home crowd, that had the control, with Everton doing brilliantly well in the first half to control the game, holding the majority of the possession - 62-38 in the favour of the away side to be precise after the first 45.
For all of Everton's enterprise, though, the Arsenal back-four were relatively comfortable with both Per Mertersacker and Laurent Koscielny a couple of pillars of strengths, the immovable objects to the not always irresistible Everton forces.
Arsenal took their time to get into the game, initially happy to bomb forward on the counter-attacks which almost proved fruitful when Kieran Gibbs was inches away from a tap-in off a cross from the right.
It was always just a matter of time before this Arsenal side, in the form of their lives at the moment, found their mojo, that one-touch, two-touch mouthwatering, oohing and aahing style, and it came in the final ten minutes of the first half.
Suddenly Arsenal were fonder of possession of the football, and those flicks and slicks in and around the penalty area in full view. If not for Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, Arsenal would have gone into the break a goal up.
First Olivier Giroud found a way through on goal after the Arsenal playmakers scythed their way through the blue wall of Everton; Howard though, alert as a cat, came out to snuff out the chance.
Aaron Ramsey, who did not have the this-guy-is-just-unbelievable games on Sunday, was the recipient of another bit of ridiculous one-touch play inside the box, with Howard again making sure the ball would not nestle into the net.
Everton midfielder Ross Barkley and Arsenal playmaker Jack Wilshere fight for possession. Reuters
Amidst all that there was some real needle growing between the two sides, desperate for the win, with tackles flying in left, right and centre only adding to the theatre.
Everton were always going to rue not making enough of their dominance in possession in the first half, as Arsenal came out much better after the break, picking up from where they had left off at the halftime whistle.
A ping and pong of passes later, Jack Wilshere found some space on the far post, with his header back inside the box just behind Santi Cazorla, who could not provide the finish.
In a reversal of the first half trend, Everton were the ones now looking to break on the counter, and a brilliant bit of play from Phil Jagielka from his own half opened Arsenal up, with a final flick from Ross Barkley, very impressive over the 90 minutes, freeing up Steven Pienaar outside the box. The South African international's strike from 20 yards though was well kept out by Wojciech Szczesny, who was finally called into action.
Arsenal were in their find-the-goal-and-send-the-opponents-reeling groove now, with Ramsey forcing a save from Howard after a nice pickout from Kieran Gibbs.
The game was there for the taking and Arsene Wenger sensing that seven-point lead tantalisingly hovering around, made a triple substitution, bringing on Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini, two of whom would have a big, big say in the opening goal, for Cazorla, Wilshere and Ramsey.
Flamini could have given Arsenal the lead with his first touch, but his strike from 12 yards, after some good work from Walcott, whistled wide.
Arsenal would go into the lead finally on 80 minutes. Rosicky played a beautiful ball in from the left towards Walcott at the far post, with the England international having the awareness to nod it back into the danger area. The ball just eluded the boot of Giroud, but fell for Ozil to fire home.
That goal was putting Arsenal a dream seven points ahead, but Everton, brilliantly, fought back to level five minutes before time.
Barkley drove through the middle before laying it off to Oviedo down the left. The left-back crossed from the left which Romelu Lukaku missed with the ball falling to the feet of substitute Gerard Deulofeu, who took a couple of touches to create half a yard before smashing the ball past Szczesny.
Both sides went full-on for the winner, and with half-chances going astray at either end it looked like a 1-1 draw it would be.
There was almost a final, stunning, twist in the tale though, as Giroud, with basically the final touch of the game struck a thunderbolt from 25 yards, with the ball deciding to rattle the crossbar, rather than smash into the back of the net.
A truly marvellous game at the Emirates, with both sides showing just why they are where they are in the Premier League standings at the moment.
Other result: Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa
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