Fellaini wipes out Walcott's opener
Everton 1 Arsenal 1:David Moyes insists permanent residence in the Champions League makes Arsenal favourites to finish above Everton this season but nothing could divide them at Goodison Park. Neither showed the initiative required for a top-four finish and both were grateful for goals from players they can ill-afford to lose when the transfer window reopens in Theo Walcott and Marouane Fellaini.
Goodison was subdued before the seats had been warmed as Arsenal took the lead after 52 seconds. Even Wenger looked surprised at the speed and ease with which Walcott tore through the Everton midfield and marked his return from a shoulder injury in emphatic fashion.
Collecting the ball just inside the Everton half, Walcott cut in from the right and evaded the challenge of Phil Jagielka before finding Aaron Ramsey lurking on the left of the area. Walcott continued his run unchecked, Ramsey returned a fine reverse pass having drawn Tony Hibbert inside, and the England international had time to steady himself before curling a right-footed finish into the far, top corner.
Arsene Wenger was forced into an early reshuffle and introduced Kieran Gibbs for the injured Laurent Koscielny at left-back but, with Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta dominating possession, the disruption was not felt initially.
Everton, with both Hibbert and Darron Gibson back in the side following lengthy injury lay-offs, were stunned by the early setback but gradually dragged themselves back into the contest.
Steven Pienaar was fortunate to keep his place but repaid Moyes’s vote of confidence with an instrumental role in the Everton equaliser. The chance appeared to have gone when Pienaar held off three challenges in the Arsenal midfield and released Nikica Jelavic only for Wojciech Szczesny to smother.
But the visitors conceded possession cheaply as Sagna played Arteta into trouble and Pienaar dispossessed his former Everton team-mate. The ball broke for Fellaini who controlled with his chest and stroked a left-footed shot into the bottom corner from 22 yards.
Everton should have taken the lead before the interval. Jelavic has been starved of opportunities in recent weeks and the anxiety showed when he squandered a glorious chance. He then denied Leighton Baines a clear run on goal when he took possession from his team-mate despite standing in a clearly offside position.
Everton had less of the play in the second half but Szczesny was the busier goalkeeper and Steven Naismith was inches away from connecting with Jelavic’s cross as it flashed across goal. They went closer still when the outstanding Baines crossed to the far post and Sylvain Distin powered in a header that Szczesny tipped into the air.