x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Rosicky rescues a point for Arsenal

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, admitted he was hugely disappointed with his side as they blew the chance to move a point behind Chelsea at the top.

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, admitted he was hugely disappointed with his side as they blew the chance to move a point behind Chelsea at the top. In one of just two games to be played in the division as the winter weather decimated the league programme, Everton emerged from a snow-bound Emirates with a fully deserved point after twice taking the lead in an enthralling match. Steven Pienaar's superbly-taken chip with just 10 minutes to go seemed to have sealed a stunning win for David Moyes' side, yet Tomas Rosicky popped up in the third minute of injury-time to fire home via a deflection off the unlucky Lucas Neill.

But Wenger, whose side are now three points behind the leaders, was honest about his team's shortcomings after watching Denilson cancel out Leon Osman's early opener for the visitors, who belied their 12th-place position with an impressive performance. "We had problems technically, and a very, very good Everton side stopped us from playing as they dominated midfield," said Wenger. "We didn't produce the quality we are used to but the late goal shows the spirit of the team and it could be a very important point."

Moyes was understandably delighted with his side as they claimed a point at Arsenal for only the second time in 14 visits to north London - although he was well aware it could have been more. "The performance was terrific and we deserved three points. There are players in the dressing room shouting at each other as we know we should have been more ruthless and finished it off," admitted the Scot. And Moyes was right as Arsenal produced a surprisingly insipid performance that make a mockery of the fact they had taken 16 points from the last 18 to haul themselves back into the title race.

Arsenal's poor start was illustrated by the fact that when Everton took the lead after just 12 minutes, the goal was overdue. Louis Saha had already gone close once and seen a goal correctly disallowed for offside before Osman made his chance count, heading home Landon Donovan's superb corner without a red shirt within touching distance of him. Wenger will have been furious that his side allowed the 5ft 8inch midfielder so much room, but the goal did little to galvanise his side.

Indeed, it was somewhat against the run of play when the hosts equalised thanks to an outrageous slice of good fortune as Denilson's 20-yard effort deflected in off Osman to leave Tim Howard floundering. During the interval the weather worsened significantly, with the snow coming down heavily as north London experienced the same arctic conditions that had seen Arsenal's game with Bolton on Wednesday called off.

Yet while Everton seemed to relish the confrontation Arsenal backed off as the pitch steadily went from a lush green to pure white as the half continued. The game was end-to-end but low on chances as the pitch proved a hindrance to sharp passing and incisive football, though Saha went close for the visitors and Aaron Ramsey, who was otherwise disappointing, rounded Tim Howard only to be forced too wide to shoot.

Yet with the game seemingly meandering towards a draw the visitors struck in stunning style. There appeared little on when Tim Cahill picked up a loose ball, but realising Arsenal had pushed too many men forward, the Australia played a superb pass into space, allowing Pienaar to run half the length of the field unchallenged. There was still a lot to do but the South African did it superbly, delightfully chipping Manuel Almunia as the Spaniard went to ground.

That appeared to be game, set and match - yet Arsenal have a resilient team spirit these days and they grabbed a late, late equaliser to leave themselves still in the title hunt. Abou Diaby was the instigator, driving at the Everton defence before laying the ball off to Rosicky, who made no mistake from 12 yards, albeit with the deflection off Neill. In truth, a point was the least Everton deserved, and they helped serve up a feast of entertainment as much of English football fell victim to the weather. Man of the match: Steven Pienaar (Everton) @Email:sports@thenational.ae