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Everton 2-1 Arsenal: Instant reaction | Lift off

Gray stunner wins it for the Toffees!

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

Football eh, bloody hell.

In what could be a seismic moment in Everton’s season, Demarai Gray’s thunderous 25-yard finish in stoppage-time helped the Toffees come from behind and beat Arsenal for a first win in over two months in a match that also saw them have two goals disallowed for offside.

There were the similar feelings of dread when Martin Odegaard gave Arsenal the lead before half-time and Richarlison saw two strikes harshly chalked off via VAR. But the Brazilian finally did level before Gray’s rocket of a shot won it to spark scenes of sheer, unadulterated joy at Goodison Park.

Some thoughts:

There was pre-match intrigue when the team news was announced, with Lucas Digne absent and Rafa Benitez confirming he was not injured. A falling out? Personal reasons? It was the former and it was a big call by the boss given there is no natural replacement.

Benitez clearly sent Everton out to hustle and harry from the off, with Andros Townsend sprinting to close down goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale from the kick-off.

That was followed up by a wonderful, thunderous tackle by Ben Godfrey on Takehiro Tomiyasu that fired up the crowd.


The protest: It was always going to be a terse moment in the evening. It was hard to tell how many walked out from the TV pictures, though it didn’t look many. It certainly got those who remained in their seats going, presumably the thinking being that if you weren’t protesting, you were going to cheer on the players.

Ben Godfrey then survived a VAR check for a possible red card when he caught Tomiyasu in the face with his studs while the Arsenal man was on the floor. It looked accidental but also pretty nasty. Has to go down as a let off.

ANOTHER injury for Mina. Barely half an hour into his comeback after two months out with a hamstring injury he was forced off with what looked like a similar problem. A huge blow and one that just adds to the doubts about his ability to stay fit for a sustained period of time.

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

Then the key moment of the half - and an example of how cruel football can be.

Richarlison thought he had given Everton the lead only to be denied by the narrowest of VAR decisions - the dreaded shoulder offside. His header from a Townsend free-kick was perfect, but just offside.

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

Minutes later and seconds before half-time, Kieran Tierney’s cross was volleyed home by a completely unmarked Odegaard to give Arsenal the lead.

Talk about a gut punch.

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

While we are all on our knees, VAR decided to kick us in the face once more.

Richarlison latched onto Doucoure’s past and fired past Ramsdale only to be denied once more by the slenderest of offsides - the kind of tight decisions we thought we going to go the attacking players way with the rule change at the start of the season.

Everton just could not catch a break.

Until the 80th minute that is, when Everton’s luck finally held.

Gray curled in an excellent effort from distance that smacked off the bar but fell for Richarlison, who sent a looping header beyond Ramsdale to speak scenes of bedlam in the Gwladys Street.

Their luck held once again minutes later when Eddie Nketiah somehow sent a header from post-blank range onto the post before the rebound went cannoning back off the Arsenal forward and wide.

A huge let off.

Then in stoppage-time, a magnificent block from Seamus Coleman denied Odegaard inside the area.

Moments later, bedlam.

Gray cut inside from the left and bent a right-footed effort beyond a static Ramsdale and in off the post.

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League - Goodison Park Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images
Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

There was still time for Alex Iwobi to have a shot saved by Ramsdale and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to drive wide in the final seconds. But Everton held on, just.

We have seen Everton and Goodison at its very worst recently, but this was both at their very best. The players and crowd fed off each other and the injustice of those VAR decisions to drag themselves to victory.

It is only one win and plenty of problems still remain, but this has the potential to be a turning point in our season.