Aug 232014

Roberto Martinez prepared for the visit of Arsenal by taking part in the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Come full-time, however, and it was as though the entire Goodison faithful had experienced a cold shower.

Everton somehow frittered away a two-goal lead in the final seven minutes to allow the Gunners to escape with a point in an absorbing encounter.

For much of the game, the Blues had allayed any fears they could be considered a one-season wonder under Martinez having comprehensively dismantled Arsene Wenger’s side for the second time in barely four months.

First-half goals from Seamus Coleman and Steven Naismith saw Everton continue in the free-flowing manner in which they so often impressed during the Catalan’s debut campaign.

Deserved victory was within reach, Aaron Ramsey’s close-range finish seven minutes from time appearing mere consolation.

The Blues, though, allowed indecision and nerves to creep into their game with Arsenal substitute Olivier Giroud converting a 90th-minute equaliser.

Instead of proving a significant and confidence-boosting pointer for the weeks ahead, this was the second consecutive week the Blues had surrendered three well-earned points by slack defending in the closing stages.

Much, then, for Martinez to ponder ahead of next week’s visit of Chelsea.

Memories were still fresh on both sides of the 3-0 beating Everton handed out to the Londoners here back in April.

That, though, had been the Blues only win in their last 15 meetings between the sides, and while the battle was lost Arsenal ultimately won the war in the fight for Champions League qualification.

Indeed, the Gunners had won their six subsequent Premier League matches and lifted the FA Cup and Community Shield.

Romelu Lukaku retained his place up front for his second home debut having made last year’s loan move permanent.

Following the disappointment of conceding a late equaliser in the opening-day 2-2 draw at Leicester City last weekend, Martinez shuffled his pack with Coleman and Kevin Mirallas both making a much-anticipated return to the starting line-up, John Stones and Aiden McGeady the duo to make way.

Arsenal welcomed back World Cup winners Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker, while Nacho Monreal, so terrorised by Lukaku four months earlier, continued at left-back.

Unsurprisingly, Lukaku positioned himself on the shoulder of Monreal from the first whistle, leaving central striker Naismith supported by Steven Pienaar with Mirallas on the left flank.

It was similar to the formation that did for the Gunners in April.

And although, with barely 10 minutes on the clock, Martinez was forced to change his gameplan when Pienaar limped off to be replaced by Leon Osman , the end result was resoundingly the same.

Pienaar’s departure contributed to a disjointed opening, with an ambitious 30-yard effort from Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the only tentative goalmouth action.

Mirallas was denied by a well-timed challenge from Gunners youngster Calum Chambers, but Coleman was a relieved man on the quarter-hour when his unwise clearance from the byline fell to Oxlade-Chamberlain on the edge of the area whose first-time shot drifted narrowly wide.

Everton FC v Arsenal FC Premier League match at Goodison Park Liverpool. Naismith scores

Coleman made the most of his reprieve by nodding the Blues into the lead four minutes later.

A short free-kick was worked right to left through Gareth Barry , Osman and Leighton Baines before Barry’s inviting cross was met at the far post by the unmarked Coleman, whose header from inside the six-yard box was too strong for Wojciech Szczesny to keep out.

The Blues should have been further ahead moments later.

A clipped ball forward by Barry headed on by Naismith was completely misjudged by Chambers, who allowed Mirallas to steal in and race clear.

However, the Belgian, with Szczesny approaching and Chambers breathing down his neck, prodded the ball the wrong side of the goalpost.

Arsenal sought a response with Oxlade-Chamberlain firing harmlessly wide after a decent build-up, while on 35 minutes Mirallas caused a ripple of excitement when his ambitious free-kick from the angle ruffled the side-netting of Szczesny’s goal.

But there was genuine reason for elation among the home fans a minute before the break when they doubled their advantage with a goal that owed everything to the pace and power of Lukaku.

Receiving possession inside his own half on the right flank, the Belgian was far too strong for Mertesacker and then evaded Chambers’ wild challenge before sprinting towards goal and slipping a reverse pass inside the area for Naismith to put the ball between the legs of Szczesny to score.

Replays suggested the Scot had strayed narrowly offside before receiving the pass, but the quality of the creation and execution of the opportunity deserved such fortune.

Arsenal were shell-shocked, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere overrun in midfield while much-vaunted new boy Alexis Sanchez was rendered so anonymous by Everton’s defence that he was replaced at the interval by Olivier Giroud.

The Frenchman almost brought the Gunners back into the game with his first touch when volleying a deep Oxlade-Chamberlain cross narrowly over at the far post.

Tempers began to fray, and Wilshere was lucky to escape with only a yellow card after an ugly lunge at the non-stop Barry.

Giroud came close again midway through the second half when, accepting Wilshere’s pass on the edge of the area, he fired a first-time shot low beyond Tim Howard’s near post.

Two minutes later, Howard was forced into his first save when the ball broke kindly for Giroud 16 yards out.

Arsenal were given a glimmer of hope seven minutes from time when Ramsey ghosted into the Everton area to latch on to substitute Santi Cazorla’s low cross from the left.

Then it all fell apart.

Giroud glanced a free header off target from a Cazorla corner, but made no mistake in the 90 minute when Monreal’s cross from the left floated over Phil Jagielka and the French striker converted from close range.

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