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Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 18:02 GMT
Arsenal edge past Everton
Sylvain Wiltord hits Arsenal's winner
Wiltord's strike sealed the points for Arsenal
Everton 0-1 Arsenal

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Arsenal kept their title hopes alive with a hard-fought victory over Everton, thanks to a fortunate Sylvain Wiltord goal.

Blustery wind, drizzling rain and a pitch which cut up by the minute, contributed to a scrappy affair.

And the strike which separated the teams was representative of the quality of the football.

  Key moment
62 mins: Sylvain Wiltord puts Arsenal ahead

Mid-way through the second half, Wiltord outstretched his leg to loop a volley, that looked like an intended cross, over the stranded Steve Simonsen.

Definitely not a goal of the season contender, but it maintained Arsenal's record of scoring in every Premiership match this season.

The strike could also prove priceless to the north London side's championship ambitions.

Both sides fielded unfamiliar line-ups, but Everton were more likely to profit from the changes.


It was a scrappy goal from our own point of view, given away very easily
Walter Smith
Their side included three new signings, while the Gunners were forced into a make-shift defence.

Making the most impact in the early stages was Goodison Park new boy David Ginola.

The Frenchman shaved a post with a curling free-kick and had three other attempts in the first half.

Surprisingly, and possibly due to a lack of first team matches recently, his best opportunity to open his account in his first match was wasted.

Precarious

Fellow debutant Lee Carsley, who was industrious throughout, provided it - but Ginola dragged his shot wide.

Half an hour of the match had passed before Thierry Henry tested Steve Simonsen, who easily smothered the striker's long-range effort.

The visitors' ineptitude in attack was matched by their inability to time a tackle in defence.

David Ginola
Ginola had a lively first half
Igor Stepanovs, making a rare start, and Sol Campbell were both booked to leave an unsure centre back partnership in a more precarious position.

A crunching tackle by Carsley forced Matthew Upson's withdrawal, and Arsenal reshuffled their back line again.

On came Lee Dixon and across came Oleg Luzhny, switching flanks from right to left.

Everton had the better of the first half, but found themselves under pressure after the interval.

A lack of match-fitness may have subdued Ginola's influence, while Henry's pace and guile was causing problems for Everton's defence.


Once we were leading 1-0 we just kept the shape and the character
Arsene Wenger
A deflected Ray Parlour shot almost opened the scoring for Arsenal; Simonsen did well to recover and make the save.

But then up popped Wiltord to notch the winner, unexpectedly and probably unintentionally directing Patrick Vieira's pass goalwards.

Arsenal had to endure one or two nervous moments in the dying stages, the most anxious when Henry's tremendous leap, which would not have been out of place in a long jump competition, earned him only a yellow card.

Had the lunge been directed more at David Weir and less an attempted block, Henry would surely have been the latest entry to Arsenal's list of shame this season.


Everton: Simonsen, Clarke (Moore 86), Weir, Stubbs, Unsworth (Gascoigne 70), Blomqvist (Pembridge 77), Carsley, Linderoth, Naysmith, Campbell, Ginola.
Subs Not Used: Gerrard, Cleland.

Arsenal: Wright, Luzhny, Stepanovs, Campbell, Upson (Dixon 31), Parlour, Vieira, Grimandi, van Bronckhorst, Wiltord, Henry.
Subs Not Used: Seaman, Jeffers, Edu, Inamoto.
Booked: Campbell, Stepanovs, Parlour, Luzhny, Henry.

Attendance: 30,859

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees)

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Dave Woods
"Arsenal came up with more precious points"
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"This team is getting better and better"
Links to more Eng Prem stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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