One of the first complaints new soccer fans have with the game is accepting that a match can end in a tie. To which I explain that there's really no such thing. Today's game at Emirate's Stadium between Everton and Arsenal is a fine example of that. Everton twice had the lead, only to give it up on deflected goals both times, with the latter coming in stoppage time. Whenever your team gives up a lead in stoppage time, it feels like a missed opportunity or more simply, a loss. Instead of three points, you get just one. And it hurts even more when it happens on the road. Now really, I shouldn't be complaining. It's a point on the road to a league leader, who early in the season destroyed us by a score of 6-1 . It's a very valuable point, even more so when considering how closely we are to the drop zone. But three points would have been oh so sweet. Alas, alas.
It was a highly entertaining game either way. Lots of chances, great skill, and excellent flow. It's the type of game you hope plays out every week. A few thoughts.
Landon Donovan started the game, which says a lot about his fitness considering he has not played a competitive match since November, and played quite well for about 65 minutes (UPDATE: he was pulled due to leg cramps, I would think the weather had something to do with this). His corner kick assisted on the first goal, which was surprising as I think LD's dead ball kicks are one of the weaker parts of his game (I would much rather see Dempsey take the US free kicks, and there are better corner men in the US pool, although the best don't always play- Adu, Holden, Rogers). He was deployed correctly on the wing, but Armand Traore (Arsenal's left back) looked completely overmatched as Donovan seemed to have free reign up the right hand side. He linked well with Phil Neville (Everton's right-back), and completed a majority of his passes. The only complaint would be his clearance in the box that led to Arsenal's first goal, although much of that blame can be laid on Tim Cahill, who failed to win that clearance. All in all, it was a very solid beginning to Donovan's Toffee career, which should only get better as he plays more games with the squad.
Steven Pienaar's chip over Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia for Everton's second goal was world class, and a skill that seems vacant from some of the best strikers. A fine example would be James Vaughan's excellent chance just a few moments later, as he was sprung on a breakaway from (another) great ball from Cahill. Instead of doing the simple chip again, Vaughan blasted it right at the keeper even after his angle had been cut. If Vaughan scores that goal, the game is over and I wouldn't feel "so un-sat-is-fied" right about now.
Arsenal are a fun team to watch. They pass the ball well, and have so much skill all over the pitch. I would love to see them win the league this year instead of Man U or Chelsea, as they play a much more attractive game. Out of the big four, Arsenal is the easiest to pull for.
Everton's next game is home at Goodison Park, Saturday at 12:30 pm, against the worst team money can buy in Manchester City. It's gonna be a tough match up, but Everton is in no position to drop points at home. COYB!
This is a pretty good recap of the game and Donovan's performance from Soccernet.com.