Late goals rescue Arsenal from loss to Toffees

STEVE DOUGLAS
Last updated 07:29 24/08/2014
Olivier Giroud
Getty Images
SQUARING THE LEDGER: Arsenal's Olivier Giroud (right) slides on his knees after his equaliser from a header in the final seconds of normal time against Everton.

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Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud scored in the final seven minutes as Arsenal recovered to draw 2-2 at Everton in the Premier League on Saturday (local time), avoiding another demoralising defeat on Merseyside.

Giroud headed home the equaliser with 40 seconds left of normal time at Goodison Park, capping a comeback started by Ramsey's close-range finish in the 83rd.

"We had a big test today and at halftime, it was even a bigger test," Wenger said. "We responded well."

Everton was deservedly 2-0 ahead at the break thanks to goals by Seamus Coleman and Steven Naismith and was threatening a repeat of the corresponding fixture last season, when Arsenal was blown away in a 3-0 loss. Arsenal also lost 5-1 at Liverpool just across Stanley Park.

Giroud's introduction as a halftime substitute invigorated Arsenal, with Everton's American goalkeeper Tim Howard only called into action once before Ramsey's goal.

"For 70-75 minutes, it was a perfect performance," said Everton manager Roberto Martinez, whose team conceded a late goal to draw 2-2 with Leicester last weekend. "The first-half display was as dominant as we've seen against a top team at Goodison Park for a while."

Arsenal has four points from its first two games after beating Crystal Palace 2-1 in their opener, when Ramsey scored an injury-time winner.

Since the defeat at Everton in April, Arsenal hadn't lost in eight competitive games - and had won six straight league matches - but its return to Goodison Park proved just as uncomfortable early on.

Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker made their first starts of the season after being given an extended lay-off after winning the World Cup with Germany last month, but they looked way off the pace.

Ozil, played out of position on the left wing, lost Coleman for the opening goal, with the right back meeting Gareth Barry's floated cross with a powerful header into the top corner past Wojciech Szczesny. Coleman was the highest-scoring defender in the Premier League last season with six goals.

Arsenal's defence was exposed minutes later but Kevin Mirallas slid a finish wide when one-on-one with Szczesny, and even worse defending contributed to Naismith's goal on the stroke of halftime.

Romelu Lukaku, playing despite a toe problem, shrugged off Mertesacker in Everton's half, cruised past a weak challenge by Calum Chambers and sent the ball through for Naismith, who slipped his shot under Szczesny's legs. Replays showed Naismith was offside when the pass was played.

The ineffective Alexis Sanchez, who started as a lone striker, was replaced at halftime by Giroud and the France international gave Arsenal some presence up front.

"He knows he is not at his best physically," Wenger said of Sanchez, who joined from Barcelona during the summer, "but when he is his confidence will come back."

Giroud volleyed over from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross and drove a low shot wide in the 67th minute as Everton sat back, happy to protect its lead. Howard then parried away Giroud's stabbed effort a minute later, Arsenal's first shot on target.

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But Ramsey got on the end of Santi Cazorla's cross to reduce the deficit with his second goal of the season and Giroud outmuscled Sylvain Distin for the equaliser.

"The dressing room is sharing a real sense of frustration because we should have six points rather than two," Martinez said.

- AP

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