Written by Carlito11
En route to meeting Peaches, Rasp, Chary and Harry pre-match I popped into “Drayton Park” Pub for a pint to find it had a majority Evertonian clientele. Some friendly good-natured banter ensued- mostly at Liverpool’s expense but when we came down to the serious matter of the night’s game we were all able to agree – the first goal would be crucial and make it very difficult for the other team to get a result.
The game started off with plenty of pressure from the Everton midfield and we struggled to get our passing game going. A yellow card for Jack in the opening minutes for what looked an innocuous challenge – this set the tone early for a refereeing debacle – stifling his ability to get stuck in and Everton had the upper hand in central midfield for large parts of the first half – mainly through Fellaini who was everywhere.
The referee, Lee Mason, has a surname that lends itself well to conspiracy theorists. He managed not to book blue players for similar or harder tackles than Jack’s and when he allowed Louis Saha in a clearly offside position to pick up a ball played through via a deflection off an Arsenal player and score the stadium and players were incredulous. When the big screen played the full replay including the offside pass the place went ballistic! Mason was forced to consult his linesman whilst the crowded howled and bayed but then allowed the goal to stand! Could we pull off a result? The doomers who sit by me informed me that Everton hadn’t lost this season when getting the first goal.
In truth the outlook at the end of the first half was bleak, an injury to Song, Jack tamed by the early yellow card and staunch defending by the Toffees could have left us with the familiar feeling at home this season that it was not be our night. But a sense of righteous anger prevailed and rarely before have all the spectators at the Emirates been so united and galvanized in their support of the team with every call the ref made being called into question, and for once it was wholly justified.
26May1989 summed it up beautifully in comments yesterday (and I believe he is a qualified referee):
“Don’t let anyone say that was anything other than offside. Under Law 11, a player is offside if he “gains an advantage” from being in an offside position. “Gaining an advantage” is explained in the FIFA handbook as including “playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position”. There is even a diagram (diagram 12 on page 107 of the Handbook) that fits the position Caldwell, Saha and Koscielny were in perfectly.
As for the rest of Mason’s performance, absolutely woeful. Playing an advantage? No, won’t bother with that. Booking Arsenal players for minor fouls? Yup. Not booking Everton players for cynically stopping an attack? Nope. Missing a number of fouls on Arsenal players? Sure.”
Second half – the boys come out early to roars from those already in their seats. With the crowd united and decisions going against us, time flew by without enough chances for us but not many for them either. Diaby came on for Song in the second half. I feel the man is a kind of anti-Fabregas: where a simple pass is open he opts for close control and riskily taking on opponents- fine qualities in an attacking midfielder but a worry when shielding the back four. Nonetheless we started to exert more of a grip on the game.Tomas Rosicky was having an ineffectual night and was replaced by Arshavin in the first of 2 excellent attacking subs by the manager , the other being Bentdner for Jack.
The breakthrough came with 20 minutes to play. Fab4 was driving the team on, as he had been all game, and aimed a through-ball which deflected off Rodwell into Arshavin’s path. Showing no doubt he calmly beat Howard from the 6 yard box to cue relief, celebrations and a feeling that although everything was against us we could triumph!
Soon after our mercurial Russian enigma restored hope. Van Persie swung in a peach of a corner which was met emphatically by Koscielny and thereafter we displayed grit and confidence to hold on, bar a scare as Rodwell headed a corner just past the post in the dying minutes.
Much of the media today will focus on Moyes comments that Fabregas should have been sent off at half time for comments made to the ref. Firstly, what a great smokescreen for defeat from Skeletor. Secondly, with that performance drawing allegations of bribery from even the meekest and most fair-minded fans around me, Fabregas would have had to be struck dumb not to have an angry word. An enquiry into the ref’s performance should ensue but I have a feeling that the press attention will mean our captain is under the spotlight again.
So today is a day we can bask in the feeling that our team can fight for a victory against the odds, that we have a genuine 12th man and that Arshavin is back. Team spirit and righteous anger can defeat even the most determined Mason!