Everton 1 - 1 Arsenal: Fellaini counters Walcott’s early strike to share points

Marouane Fellaini equalised for Everton with this effort. Picture: Getty
Marouane Fellaini equalised for Everton with this effort. Picture: Getty
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ARSENAL forward Theo Walcott and Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini both marked their first-team returns with a goal but the draw was little use in the battle to regain a top-four spot in the Barclays Premier League.

Scorers: Everton - Fellaini (28); Arsenal - Walcott (1)

Bookings: Everton: Oviedo, Gibson; Arsenal - Gibbs

Attendance: 37,141

Walcott, who had missed two matches with a shoulder injury, scored after just 52 seconds only for Fellaini, having served a one-match ban, to equalise just 
before the half-hour mark.

Everton thought they should have had a second-half penalty when former Toffees midfielder Mikel Arteta appeared to foul Steven Pienaar, but their appeals went unheard.

A sixth draw in eight league matches has put a dampener on the Merseysiders’ impressive start to the season and they have dropped to sixth, with the Gunners immediately below them.

Arsenal had won eight and drawn two of their past ten league meetings and must have felt they would add to their tally of victories after gaining such an early advantage.

Fans barely had the chance to take their seats before Walcott put the visitors ahead in a move which carved open the Everton defence in a manner which will have infuriated manager David Moyes.

Walcott set off on a right-to-left run, aided by a rebound off Phil Jagielka, but when he got to the edge of the penalty area he offloaded to Aaron Ramsey.

The England international continued the path of his run and his Welsh team-mate duly returned the ball for him to fire in a shot which looped up off Tony Hibbert and over goalkeeper Tim Howard.

It took him into double 
figures for the season and made him joint top league scorer – with four – alongside Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla.

Arsenal were forced into a reshuffle minutes later when Laurent Koscielny injured himself clearing the ball and was replaced by left-back Kieran Gibbs.

Fellaini took a while to get into the game and his header at a corner lacked any threat and was collected by Wojciech Szczesny at the second attempt.

However, the Belgium international is not one to pass up chances when they are presented to him on a plate and he capitalised in the 28th minute.

Bacary Sagna, under pressure from Steven Pienaar, duffed a cross-field clearance straight to Everton’s leading scorer 25 yards out. He took a moment to get the ball under control before curling a low, left-footed shot inside Szczesny’s right-hand post.

Sagna was not having the best of nights and, under pressure from Fellaini, he toe-poked a backpass wide from distance.

Nikica Jelavic produced a moment of sublime skill to control Fellaini’s flick on his chest and turn Per Mertesacker but he ballooned a shot into the Park End.

Everton emerged on top and had it not been for Szczesny they would have gone ahead.

The Poland international kept out Pienaar’s near-post shot at the expense of a corner and when Leighton Baines’ cross was returned to him he picked out Sylvain Distin whose header was denied by Szczesny’s fingertips.

Arsenal were even luckier when former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta’s challenge sent Pienaar sprawling in the penalty area – television replays suggesting the Spaniard got nowhere near the ball – only for referee Mike Jones to award a corner.

The Gunners responded with Olivier Giroud flashing a header across goal from Walcott’s cross as they started to show signs of turning the tide. Suddenly Howard was the busier goalkeeper, punching clear a couple of corners and repelling Cazorla’s long-range strike.

Jelavic had one late chance in the 89th minute but he fired his shot off target.

Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Gibson (Hitzlsperger 73), Osman, Pienaar, Fellaini, Jelavic, Naismith (Oviedo 62). Subs not used: Mucha, Heitinga, Barkley, Gueye, Vellios.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Koscielny (Gibbs 4), Arteta, Wilshere, Walcott, Ramsey (Gervinho 80), Cazorla (Coquelin, 90) Giroudy. Subs not used: Mannone, Jenkinson, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain