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Everton 2-1 Arsenal - Williams the hero in Goodison thriller

Toffees hit back to stun Arsenal at Goodison Park

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Ashley Williams scored his first goal for Everton as the Toffees came from behind to beat Arsenal in a pulsating encounter at Goodison Park.

Alexis Sanchez’s early deflected free-kick had seemingly set the title-chasing Gunners on the path to yet another victory.

But Everton finally roused themselves and hit back through Seamus Coleman’s header before Williams’ late intervention sent Goodison into raptures.

The atmosphere at the final whistle could not have been more different upon kick-off, with Evertonians fearing the worst after a desperate run of just one win in 11 games in all competitions.

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Ronald Koeman shuffled his pack once more making four changes, with Phil Jagielka, Antonio Valencia, Ross Barkley and Aaron Lennon coming into the starting line-up.

Valencia had impressed as a substitute in recent weeks and so deserved his first league start.

The Ecuadorian was bright and inventive, creating an early opening for Romelu Lukaku down the right that saw the Belgian’s low cross cleared for a corner.

Sadly for Everton their soft centre was exposed after 18 minutes. Jagielka gifted possession to Arsenal before fouling Francis Coquelin on the edge of the box. At the same time Williams clattered Idrissa Gueye and caught the midfielder with his studs.

With Gueye off the field receiving treatment Sanchez fired in a free-kick that deflected off Williams and bobbled beyond Maarten Stekelenburg.

It was bordering on the farcical.

Given Everton’s poor form and terrible recent record at Goodison over the past few seasons the signs were ominous, but thankfully the frustration felt by the crowd and the players was channeled into something positive.

Everton began to press, hassle and harry, and the chances finally came. Lennon went on a mazy run down the left before driving the ball just over. Lukaku also fired an effort on goal but couldn’t get the ball on target.

The Toffees finally got the reward their efforts deserved on 35 minutes when Leighton Baines’ cross was met by the unmarked Coleman and the Irishman sent a glancing header beyond Petr Cech.

It was the spark that finally roused Everton into life, though the half-time break perhaps came an an inopportune moment as it stunted their momentum.

Thankfully Everton carried on where they left off in the second half, doing things they haven’t done in months. Hassling, pressing, harrying, snapping. All the things that make teams like Arsenal uncomfortable.

The Goodison crowd responded. The grand old lady can be a formidable weapon on nights like this and the fans played their part ensuring the tide of the match continued to turn in their direction.

Barkley sent a fizzing low cross-shot just wide after a neat lay-off from Lukaku. The Belgian then went on a surging run down the left but Gabriel did well to get in a last-ditch tackle.

Barkley played a dangerous ball in the box that nearly fell to Lukaku before being scrambled away.

Everton then began to look a little leggy, so Koeman responded by bringing on youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin for his debut in place of the impressive Valencia.

Jagielka drew an impressive stop from Cech after he controlled Barkley’s corner as Everton continued to push forward.

Then the moment we were waiting for.

Barkley’s corner from the right was met by Williams who powered a downward header beyond Cech and into the roof of the net.

Williams whirled away in celebration while the Goodison crowd went wild.

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It was the Welshman’s first goal for the club and atoned for his role in the opening goal.

Koeman brought on Ramiro Funes Mori for James McCarthy to shore things up for the final few minutes.

Sadly for any supporters with a nervous disposition, the closing stages were anything but calm.

First Barkley saw an effort pushed away by Cech, though replays suggested Barkley should have crossed for Mirallas to tap home.

Then Jagielka was shown a second yellow card for tugging back Lucas Perez, meaning the skipper will now miss Monday’s Merseyside derby.

From the resulting free-kick Nacho Monreal and Alex Iwobi both had efforts cleared off the line in a mad scramble that also included goalkeeper Cech, who had run up field in a desperate attempt to grab an equaliser.

The final whistle brought roars of delight from the terraces and scenes we haven’t witnessed for a long time.

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The players have been rightly criticised in recent weeks for their sloppy displays but they deserve all the credit that comes their way tonight.

With the Liverpool match just six days away this result and performance couldn’t be more timely.

Lets hope this proves a turning point in the season and a sign things may well be a lot rosier in the Goodison garden than we perhaps first thought.