Everton take the plaudits in Emirates draw

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

There was the necessary slice of luck in stoppage time, with Arsenal the width of a post away from snatching three points. But there was nothing lucky about this Everton performance in the Toffees' 1-1 draw at the Emirates Sunday. The positives were plentiful, especially in an exceptional opening 40 minutes.

Although the talk beforehand centred on the need to replicate the Old Trafford showing, this was better (and by quite a distance). Though the result provided one point rather than three, this was the most complete display thus far under Roberto Martinez.

-Delaney: Three things-Arsenal vs. Everton
-Mangan: Well-earned point for Gunners

The Blues began with the kind of confidence expected from a side ending a 21-year drought at the home of the champions -- it was not until the closing minutes of the first half that Arsenal stirred.

When the league leaders eventually clicked heading into the interval, the visitors were indebted to an excellent shot-stopping cameo from Tim Howard, who kept out Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud before half-time. The American impressed again in the second half when called upon.

Another to excel among the defensive quintet was Seamus Coleman. The full-back was tigerish in the tackle, which may have contributed to the rather empty complaints about tactical fouling from Arsene Wenger, and charged up and down the right flank from first whistle to last. The rough edges of the past have faded to reveal one of the league's best right backs.

Before the interventions of Howard and company, though, the plaudits belonged to a vibrant passing exhibition from a midfield in fine form. Gareth Barry and James McCarthy bossed their counterparts in red as the advanced creative trio roamed to fantastic effect.

Steven Pienaar combined well with the in-form Bryan Oviedo throughout, and continued his recent resurgence. With or without Leighton Baines, the South African remains a shrewd operator on the left flank. The fleetness of foot, the subtle drop of a shoulder, and the cleverest awareness of space still outweigh the relative lack of speed.

Furthermore, the Everton midfield also housed the two talented youngsters responsible for the individual moments of the match. Ross Barkley alternated between cruise control and sixth gear to get around the pitch, but there is undoubted quality about the majority of his work whatever the pace.

There was majesty about the first half drop of the shoulder that left Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil looking red-faced. Fine-tuning the troublesome decision-making seen earlier in the season, Barkley is the finest product off the academy conveyor belt since Wayne Rooney. As if to further highlight his undoubted potential, another flick created a chance for Pienaar after the break.

If there was something majestic about the skill of Barkley, there was a ruthless efficiency about the equalising goal fashioned by the prodigious talents of Gerard Deulofeu. There was more to admire from Barkley in the buildup, yet few options and little room greeted the Barcelona loanee when the ball reached him inside the penalty area.

Undeterred, despite the close attentions of Tomas Rosicky and Kieran Gibbs, Deulofeu engineered, seemingly from nowhere, just enough space to hammer a shot over Wojciech Szczesny into the far corner. Cue celebrations in the away end and the sound of a well-earned point returning to Merseyside.

Ending the toughest week of the season to date, with two tough trips separated by just four days, the four-point haul is testament to the work of Martinez and his players. Even the most optimistic of supporters could not envisaged such accomplished outings at this early stage.

Most pleasing of all, nonetheless, is the shedding of the inferiority complex that plagued for squad in previous contests of this nature. For the first time in a long time, Everton fear no one -- and on this form they have no reason to. Long may it continue.

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