Robin van Persie nets stunning second-half goal to give Gunners narrow triumph
Arsene Wenger's side mark their 125th anniversary in apt manner after captain and talisman strikes emphatically late on to steal all three points in encounter with the Toffees
In a first half that was all bark and no bite, the Gunners dominated their visitors, although it wasn’t until the closing minutes that the hosts managed to break down their opponents.
An Alex Song pass carved open the Everton back four, allowing Robin van Persie to stride on and sink a left-footed, first time volley in off the far post, taking the Arsenal captain just one strike away from the visiting Thierry Henry’s club record for goals in a calendar year.
It was a win that crystalised Arsenal’s Premier League renaissance, carrying them into the top four of the table for the first time this season.
The home side enjoyed much the better start of the two, regularly threatening with the pace of wide men Theo Walcott and Gervinho on the counter.
It was the English winger who burst through for the first chance of the game, opting to square for Gervinho, though the Ivorian was distracted enough by Tony Hibbert to miscue his effort at the open goal.
Aaron Ramsey manoeuvred excellently in the box after being played through by Alex Song but his left-footed effort hit the top of the net moments before Howard denied Gervinho from close range.
Arsenal turned the screw as the half reached its closing stages, though with Walcott getting the better of Leighton Baines several times down the right flank there was little by way of end product to put the hosts in front.
The second half started exactly as its predecessor ended, though in the same exasperating fashion. Walcott blazed over after cutting in off the wing, then stung Howard’s palms with a drive from similar range before Vermaelen halted a rare Everton attack by taking the ball off the head of Tim Cahill at the far post.
With David Moyes opting to introduce Sylvain Distin for Louis Saha with half an hour left, the Gunners job of breaking down an obstinate back four was made all the more difficult.
Neville bent an effort just over the bar as Everton began to sense that they could maybe steal something from the encounter.
However, that sentiment was duly snatched away as Van Persie broke the deadlock in emphatic style. Alex Song lofted a delightful ball over the top of the Everton back four and the Gunners’ captain latched onto the pass, striking the ball first time with his left foot, in off the far post.
Substitute Conor McAleny nearly grabbed an equaliser for Everton in the dying seconds, though Arsenal managed to see out the game to claim victory on a momentous day in the history of the club.