Everton’s destiny now in own hands

Everton 3 Arsenal 0

Everton’s destiny now in own hands

The immediate implications of this breathtaking victory for Everton’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League are clear, but the overall consequences could be infinitely more wide reaching.

For the second time this season Arsenal have left Merseyside with their tail between their legs. Bruised and battered, humbled and humiliated.

And while the scoreline might not have been asemphatic as the 5-1 defeat to Liverpool across Stanley Park in February, the frailties of Arsene Wenger’s side were just as cruelly exposed.

Everton, to their credit, have chipped away over the past few months accumulating points under the quiet authority of Martinez.

The Spaniard has remained eternally optimistic of delivering on his promise to Everton chairman Bill Kenwright that he could get the club into European football’s elite competition.

The momentum shift from this devastating win may well be enough to give the Toffees the spurt they need to achieve that goal — a point behind Arsenal with a game in hand they are masters of their own destiny.

And while the Toffees may yet drop points with tough games against both Manchester clubs at Goodison Park, it’s hard not to see Arsenal doing likewise in the remainder of the campaign.

Should Everton get their reward, it could also be a telling blow for the future of Wenger, although an FA Cup victory could yet save the Frenchman from the brickbats that would come from no Champions League football at the Emirates next season.

“The fight is very open, it depends not only on us,” Wenger said.

“Everton are in strong position. But we have been confronted with this before and it’s how we respond to this.”

Everton have featured just once among European football’s elite where they failed to make the group stages after being knocked out in a play-off by Villarreal in 2005. But should they go one better this time it could help transform the club into the kind of force long-suffering Evertonians have yearned for them to be since the glory days of Howard Kendall in the 1980s.

That’s not to say they will become Premier League challengers overnight, but they need only look to their near neighbours to realise that the hegemony at the top can be broken.

“It’s not going to be straightforward to get into the Champions League,” Martinez said. “But the mentality of the group is that we believe in ourselves and can do it.

“They are a huge three points from a psychological point of view. But there is still a long way to go. It’s going to be a tough battle. We are delighted that we are in the mix.”

The Toffees zipped the ball about with confidence and a slick move allowed Steven Naismith to give them the lead early on after Romelu Lukaku’s shot from near the penalty spot was parried by Wojciech Szczesny.

That should have galvanised Arsenal into life, but instead Everton continued their assault with a relentless spell of pressure. And Arsenal’s rearguard was breached again just after the half-hour mark by on-loan Chelsea striker Lukaku, who notched his 12th Premier League goal of the season after skipping past Arsenal defenders Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen before burying a powerful shot into the corner of the net.

Wenger’s side began the second period in a determined fashion but Everton simply matched them and their desire was reflected in the manner of their third goal shortly after the hour mark.

Kevin Mirallas stole possession off Bacary Sagna on the halfway line and headed towards the Arsenal goal where he found Naismith with an intelligent pass.

Naismith saw his path to goal blocked by Szczesny, but the ball popped free and Mirallas, who had continued his run into the penalty area, battled Mikel Arteta in the scramble which ultimately saw the Arsenal midfielder — once of this parish — inadvertently push it into his own net.

“What is important, when you are a team you have to have an aim,” added Martinez, as he contemplated the prospect of a top-four finisher.

“At a club with the heritage of Everton it is to get into the Champions League. But there is still a long, long way to go.”

EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Howard 7; Coleman 7, Stones 8, Distin 7, Baines 7; McCarthy 6, Barry 7; Naismith 8 (McGeady 81; 6), Osman 6 (Barkley 10; 7), Mirallas 8, Lukaku 8 (Deulofeu 86; 6)

ARSENAL (4-3-3): Szczesny 7; Sagna 4, Mertesacker 5, Vermaelen 5, Monreal 6; Flamini 5 (Ramsey 66; 6), Arteta 5, Rosicky 5; Cazorla 6, Podolski 5 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 66; 7), Giroud 5 (Sanogo 71; 6).

Referee: Martin Atkinson

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