English Premiership

Van Persie again saves Arsenal

2011-12-10 19:19
Robin van Persie (File)

London - Robin van Persie's stunning volley at the Emirates Stadium allowed Arsenal to celebrate their 125th birthday with a 1-0 Premier League victory over Everton on Saturday.

The Gunners skipper settled the match with his 33rd league goal of 2011, one behind Thierry Henry's club record for a calendar year.

His goal ensured Arsene Wenger's team extended their unbeaten run to eight league matches.

Former players and managers were invited onto the pitch before the game to celebrate the club's landmark anniversary and salute the home supporters.

The "legends" introduced by Arsenal included former France internationals Henry and Robert Pires.

Wenger needed to reshuffle his defence after left-back Andre Santos suffered an ankle injury in the midweek Champions League loss to Olympiakos.

It meant Thomas Vermaelen was playing as a full-back, with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in the middle of defence and Johan Djourou on the right.

With four out-and-out centre-backs across the defence, Arsenal were looking to keep Louis Saha quiet after the Everton striker returned from a thigh injury.

There was an injury scare for Djourou and Louis Saha when they collided in the early exchanges while competing for an aerial ball, but both were able to hobble on and continue.

Vermaelen was also in the action straight away on his left flank, timing a tackle perfectly to dispossess Seamus Coleman as the young winger charged into the penalty area.

Arsenal had the first chance of the contest with a move started by ex-Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta, who left Goodison Park just before the last transfer window closed.

Arteta won the ball off Marouane Fellaini and played Theo Walcott through on goal, with the England winger unselfishly laying the ball towards Gervinho.

But Gervinho took too much time and it allowed Tony Hibbert to race back and deflect the Ivory Coast forward's finish over the crossbar.

The next chance came just before the half-hour mark when Alex Song played the ball forward for Aaron Ramsey in the penalty area.

The Welsh midfielder took his time and got the ball on his left foot but just cleared the bar with his chipped finish.

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard was called into action a minute later, saving well with his feet after Phil Neville's poor clearance allowed Gervinho to race through on goal again.

Arsenal also had a penalty appeal just before the break.

Vermaelen was on the end of a corner and his header was blocked by Phil Jagielka -- but referee Howard Webb waved play on as he had not seen the incident.

In the second half, Arsenal enjoyed the majority of possession and the chances inevitably followed from that.

Van Persie could only stab over when he was on the end of a cross from Walcott. Then Walcott had a chance himself, skipping around Leighton Baines and firing towards the top corner, but Howard saved well.

Everton were forced to make a change when Saha suffered an injury, with Sylvain Distin coming on and slotting into defence.

But van Persie's moment came when Song played the ball over the top and his first-time volley smashed in off the post as Arsenal went fourth in the table.

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