x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Wenger's perfect gift

Arsenal get their title hopes firmly back on track as they record their 200th Premier League home victory.

Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor holds off a challenge from Everton's Phil Jaglelka.
Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor holds off a challenge from Everton's Phil Jaglelka.

LONDON // Arsenal got their title hopes firmly back on track today as they recorded their 200th Premier League home victory and gave Arsene Wenger the perfect birthday present. Wenger celebrates his 59th birthday this week and he made a bold statement before the game saying his side could not afford any more defeats. With Hull winning the last game at Emirates Stadium and Arsenal having dropped eight points from their opening seven league games, you could sense the anxiety among the home supporters from the opening whistle.

The Arsenal manager must have feared the worst after Leon Osman fired Everton into a first- half lead. But his young side showed all their battling qualities to fight their way back into the game and second-half strikes from Samir Nasri, Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott ensured Arsenal returned to winning ways. Everton got off to a dream start when they opened the scoring after nine minutes. Steven Pienaar broke clear down the left and crossed in for Osman, who struck a right-foot shot past Manuel Almunia into the corner of the net.

Van Persie could have grabbed an equaliser for the home side on 16 minutes. Cesc Fabregas played a high ball over the top of the Everton defence which caught out Joleon Lescott. Van Persie reacted the quickest but saw his close-range shot superbly kept out Everton keeper Tim Howard. Everton then blew a golden chance to double their lead on 38 minutes following a major mistake by Almunia. Leighton Baines's cross caused all kinds of problems for the Arsenal keeper who rushed out of his goal and got nowhere near the ball.

Lescott rose the highest and his close-range header was cleared off the line by Gael Clichy. Wenger must have given his side an inspirational team-talk at half-time as they looked a completely different side in the second half. Nasri finally gave the home fans something to shout about when he netted the equaliser on 48 minutes. Michel Silvestre laid the ball back for the French full-back who drilled a low right-foot shot into the corner of the net. With Walcott being introduced as a substitute, Arsenal had more energy and pace in the team and could have added a second on 55 minutes. Eboue crossed for Van Persie who found himself unmarked inside the box but flashed his close-range effort over.

The game threatened to spiral out of control on the hour mark following a nasty looking challenge by Tony Hibbert on Denilson. Clichy squared up to the Everton defender which prompted a major fracas on the touchline involving a number of players and the Arsenal manager. After missing two very good chances, Van Persie finally got his name on the scoresheet when he headed the decisive second on 70 minutes. Emmanuel Adebayor fed the ball into Fabregas who saw his shot saved by Howard. The rebound fell perfectly to Van Persie and he made no mistake, heading the ball into an empty net.

Walcott sealed the victory a minute from time when Abou Diaby cut the ball back for the England winger and he struck his shot through the legs of Howard. @Email:sports@thenational.ae