Cech stars as Arsenal beats Everton 2-0 for 5th straight win
LONDON (AP) — A fifth straight win. A first clean sheet. Even the sight of under-fire goalkeeper Petr Cech chipping the ball over an onrushing forward to find a teammate.
Things are really starting to click for Arsenal under new coach Unai Emery.
Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored in the space of three second-half minutes to lead Arsenal to a 2-0 win over Everton in the Premier League on Sunday.
While it was a pair of strikers who sealed a fourth league victory in a row — along with a win in the Europa League — it was as much a day to celebrate for Arsenal’s oft-criticized defense, and the goalkeeper behind it.
Cech has been challenged by Emery to use his feet more so the team can play the ball out from the back. It has been a tough adjustment period for a player who, at 36, is in the twilight of his career but his faultless display against Everton showed he is getting there.
“Petr, he has a lot of experience and quality,” Emery said. “He started the season very well and he is having the performances that we want. Today he shows us he is doing very well and continuing with this work and spirit every day.”
Toward the end of the game, Cech drew a gasp, then a roar of approval, from Arsenal fans when he lofted a deft pass over Everton forward Richarlison and picked out right back Hector Bellerin. Before that, it was his shot-stopping that really saved Arsenal.
Everton had the better of the first half at Emirates Stadium, with Richarlison — back after a three-match domestic ban for headbutting an opponent — proving dangerous down the left wing and forcing a good parried save out of Cech.
Theo Walcott, back at Arsenal for the first time since being sold to Everton in January, also drew a good block from the goalkeeper after being played in for a one-on-one, and Arsenal was arguably fortunate to still be level at halftime.
The turning point came in the 56th minute when Lacazette picked up a short pass from Aaron Ramsey on the left channel, took a touch, and curled a shot in off the far post for his second goal of the season. Emery later said he was about to replace Lacazette just before the France striker scored.
Everton can justifiably complain about the second goal, with Aubameyang clearly in an offside position when receiving the ball from Ramsey’s flick at the end of a counterattack. The assistant referee’s flag stayed down as Aubameyang curled home from close range.
“It’s too clear,” Everton manager Marco Silva said. “For me, it’s strange.”
Aubameyang is having to play on the left wing to accommodate Lacazette as the team’s central striker, but it is not stopping the Gabon striker from scoring. Since his Premier League debut on Feb. 3, only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (16) has scored more goals than Aubameyang’s 12.
This was his fourth goal of the season, with two of them coming against Ukrainian side Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League on Thursday.
Arsenal closed the game out without conceding — for the first clean sheet under Emery — despite center back Sokratis hobbling off with a knee injury in the first half.
For Everton, it is just one win in six league games in Silva’s first season.
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80