Phil Jagielka scored the only goal as Everton beat Arsenal at Goodison Park to claim their third consecutive Premier League win.
Jagielka, who was called into the starting XI as a replacement for Michael Keane shortly before kick-off, poked home early on following Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s header from Lucas Digne’s long throw.
Arsenal were poor in the first half and, while they did improve in the second, they never seriously tested Jordan Pickford in the Toffees goal.
Everton, meanwhile, had plenty of chances to double their lead in the second half as Bernard, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson all spurned chances.
Victory for Everton means they leapfrog Watford into ninth while Arsenal remain in fourth.
Everton only announced Jagielka was starting 15 minutes before kick-off – a late replacement for Keane who dropped out of the matchday squad due to illness.
But it only took the club captain 10 minutes to get on the scoresheet as he capitalised on confusion in the Arsenal box to fire home his first goal since April 2017 from close range.
The hosts went on to dominate for much of the first half with Brazilian pair Richarlison and Bernard causing problems as they found plenty of space in behind the Gunners’ wing-backs.
While the visitors did improve after the break with the introduction of Aaron Ramsey and Pierre Emerick-Aubemeyang, the Toffees were still largely the better side.
Bernard should have doubled his side’s lead on 59 minutes when an error by Ainsley Maitland-Niles presented him with a one-on-one with Bernd Leno which the keeper saved well.
And there were more chances for the hosts as the game drew to a close, too, as Sigurdsson could only shoot straight at Leno from Richarlison’s cut-back, while the Brazilian skewed his own effort wide with the goal gaping.
There were further opportunities for Bernard, Andre Gomes and substitute Theo Walcott as the Toffees piled on the pressure but they could not find a second goal.
However, they were not made to pay for their lack of cutting edge as they claimed a victory which sees them string together three consecutive league wins for only the second time this season and the first since October.
Toothless Arsenal fail to impress
When the Gunners arrived at Goodison Park they were chasing a fourth-straight win across all competitions and they were unbeaten in the league since a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City in early February.
But they looked a side devoid of confidence and ideas in the first 45 minutes on Merseyside.
In fact, it only took them 10 minutes to continue their unwanted record of being the only Premier League side to not keep an away clean sheet as Jagielka poked in the hosts’ eventual winner.
With the injured Granit Xhaka missing from Arsenal’s midfield, Everton’s Andre Gomes was able to dictate the game’s tempo, with neither Matteo Guendouzi nor Mohamed Elneny able to impose themselves.
The Gunners did improve after the break as Emery changed his side’s shape by bringing on a second striker in the form of Aubemeyang, but still they could not find a way to breach the Everton defence.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan went closest with a curling effort from the edge of the box but the fact Pickford only made two saves spoke volumes.
Despite their defeat Arsenal still currently occupy the final Champions League qualification spot but they could well lose it to Chelsea if Maurizio Sarri’s side can beat West Ham on Monday night.
And with a Europa League quarter-final against Napoli on Thursday, and more crucial league games on the horizon, Emery needs to find out what went wrong at Goodison Park and fast.
Source – BBC