Everton registered a historic win at Arsenal on Friday night thanks to a blunder from Bernd Leno, which allowed Gylfi Sigurdsson off the hook after letting boss Carlo Ancelotti down.
The Toffees had failed to win on their travels to the red side of north London in 25 years and were out of form after going winless in their last six games across all competitions, but were gifted the win when Leno fumbled the ball into his own net.
Richarlison’s tame delivery from the right-hand of the six-yard box posed little threat to the Gunners and appeared easy for Leno to collect, yet caught the German out and calamitously rolled through his legs to break the deadlock.
Everton had struggled to create chances to find a way past Leno and may have fallen behind had a VAR review not deemed Nicolas Pepe to have been marginally offside in the build-up to a possible penalty, when Dani Ceballos went to ground after a tackle by Richarlison.
The Toffees were given a reprieve and surged on in hopes of opening the scoring, and earned the rewards with 14 minutes left on the clock to move one point behind sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur – who have played a game more – and Liverpool.
Ancelotti was delighted to see his side claim their first win in any competition since beating West Bromwich Albion 1-0 on March 4, and feels his side are now back in the race for a European berth.
“It was really important to stay attached to the top of the table,” he told BBC Sport. “The performance was good. It’s all good news tonight and this gives us confidence for the next games. Finally, I can say we are back.”
The Toffees boss would have felt differently had it not been for Leno’s howler, as Sigurdsson had let Ancelotti down with his efforts at the Emirates after the Iceland maestro retained his place on the left-wing following a brace over Tottenham last time out.
Ancelotti was full of praise for Sigurdsson for his role in the 2-2 Spurs draw, noting via quotes by the Liverpool Echo: “The performance and decisions of Gylfi were really good.”
Sigurdsson came closest to scoring for Everton at Arsenal when his 30-yard free-kick rattled the top of the crossbar six minutes before the break, but his involvement beyond that left much to the imagination.
The £13.5m-rated midfielder – who Alex McLeish calls a “dangerous customer” and Danny Mills believes has “untold ability” – only attempted one other effort on Leno’s goal, when his shot two minutes into the second period was turned out for a corner by Rob Holding.
No Everton player took more shots on goal at the Emirates than Sigurdsson with Lucas Digne joining the former Spurs maestro on two attempts, per WhoScored, but unlike the French full-back – who also created one chance – he failed to register a single key pass.
Sigurdsson also struggled to get on the ball and ended the night having played fewer accurate passes (27) than Jordan Pickford (33), after attempting the least passes (32) of his last three appearances while never attempting a cross or playing a through ball – in fact, he even had less touches than his goalkeeper too (45 to 57).
The 31-year-old will have been relieved to have left north London with all three points knowing he should have done more to influence the game, and get Everton back on track in the race for European football.