Everton emerged victorious in the battle for the Champions League with a comfortable 3-0 win over fourth placed Arsenal.
Steven Naismith- earning a starting place after his heroics from the bench against Fulham- set the Blues on their way to three vital points after 14 minutes, slotting home Romelu Lukaku’s rebounded effort.
Lukaku then doubled his side’s lead with 10 minutes of the first half left, cutting in from the right to fire past Wojciech Szczesny.
The home side weathered a brief barrage of Gunners’ artillery at the beginning of the second half; Nacho Monreal firing across goal. But the three points were effectively wrapped up just after the hour when Kevin Mirallas forced ex-Toffee Mikel Arteta to poke into his own net.
Much importance was made in the lead up to this fixture, with many commentators saying whichever team won would be likely to go on and clinch fourth place.
The win leaves Everton just one point behind Arsenal, while three points from their game in hand would see the Toffees leap-frog the Gunners.
Howard- 7- the American stopper continues his impressive season-long form. Did well to tip Oxlade-Chamberlain’s wicked shot onto the bar.
Baines- 7- took over the captaincy when Osman was forced off early with suspected concussion and was in every sense a leader. Was his usual self on the left flank, finding space high up and producing the cross to Lukaku which led to the opening goal.
Distin- 6- a composed performance from the experienced centre-half. The ground only realised Giroud had been on the pitch when he was being substituted and Distin snuffed out his countryman’s threat.
Stones- 7- the 19 year-old made only his 10th Premier League start against Arsenal but he made it look like his 100th. Showed composure and elegance on the ball.
Coleman- 8- never ignored his defensive duties but could be found terrorising Arsenal left-back Monreal more often than he was required to defend. So dangerous running past full-backs, Coleman topped off a classy display with a gorgeous piece of skill which bamboozled Cazorla and had Goodison looking on in awe.
Barry- 7- only slightly overshadowed by his fellow centre midfielder, but Barry’s importance in Everton’s side cannot be understated. Hard in the tackle and economical in his distribution, the loan-star was a vital part of the three points.
McCarthy- 9- the Irishman was everywhere on Sunday. Presses the ball to hurry the opposition and never shied out of a tackle. His stamina is also impressive and at one point towards the end of the game, the midfielder collected the ball and drove forward with real intensity. Two thirds of Earth’s surface is covered by water…the rest by James McCarthy. Man of the Match
Mirallas- 7- started on the left side of the front three and linked up with Baines superbly. Everton’s left side seems diminished without Steven Pienaar to link up with the left-back but Mirallas showed he could be the answer. Did fantastically to rob Sagna on the half-way line, bring the ball forward before playing in Naismith. Pressure on Arteta ended with the long forgotten ex-Blue turning into his own net.
Osman- 6- barely lasted 10 minutes but it was obvious the man to be given a testimonial was well up for this one. Set the tone for a fantastic performance. Forced off with a head injury for Barkley.
Lukaku- 8- it was odd to see the hulking figure of Lukaku positioned out on the right side of the front three but Martinez’s decision worked a treat. Cut in with pace and power before unleashing an unstoppable shot to put the Blues 2-0 up.
Naismith- 8- more than deserved his starting place after a match-winning appearance from the bench against Fulham. Looked to play as the furthest, most central striker which surprised many but Martinez clearly knows what he’s doing. Again, he popped up in the right place at the right time, anticipating the rebound from Lukaku’s shot to slot home. Worked tirelessly and linked up well with Everton’s other forwards.
Barkley- 8- replaced Osman within the first 10 minutes and resumed the fight the injured player had started. A real presence in the middle of the park, the born-and-bred Blue was a threat in attack and showed just how up for it he was, shoving Arteta after the Spaniard threw and arm in his direction.
McGeady- 6- played the final 10 minutes in place of Naismith. Looked lively and his fresh legs and speed gave Arsenal’s tiring defence another worry.
Deulofeu- 5- the Spaniard barely had five minutes to influence the game when he was introduced for Lukaku but he played on the last man and gave Arsenal a scare when he twisted and turned his was into the box. Sadly the winger got a bit tied up and the chance was gone.
Just how good were Everton on Sunday?…McCarthy just about pinched the Man of the Match from Naismith, but there were 11 candidates on the pitch for the award…how pleased are you that everyone turned up?…This was a massive game, but are the next six just as big?…please leave you comments below…