Arsenal’s hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League were dented on Sunday as Everton captain Phil Jagielka took advantage of an unexpected late recall to score the winner in a dominant 1-0 victory at Goodison Park.
The veteran defender, who was brought into the team for a rare appearance after Michael Keane had to withdraw in the warm-up through illness, scored after 10 minutes to earn his side a well-deserved third straight league win.
It marked a significant setback for disappointing Arsenal, who remain fourth in the table but missed an opportunity to leap ahead of their third-placed north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Unai Emery’s side stay on 63 points, one behind Spurs, level with fifth-placed Chelsea and two clear of Manchester United in an increasingly tight battle for the Champions League berths.
The experienced Jagielka proved Everton’s unlikely hero after his late call-up, becoming the oldest goalscorer in the league this season at 36 years 233 days when he poked home his finish after Arsenal failed to clear Lucas Digne’s long throw.
The ball had fallen kindly after Dominic Calvert-Lewin got the final touch on to him in the aerial battle, allowing Jagielka to score his first league goal in two years and become Everton’s second-oldest marksman in the Premier League era.
“I’m not normally a match-winner, full stop,” laughed the former England defender on Sky Sports. “They’re the best goals, the little tap-ins from two or three yards.”
His goal signalled a hungry and aggressive display from Everton who, while moving up to ninth on 46 points, could have won far more convincingly if Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison had converted any of the side’s 23 attempts on goal.
“We got one goal but could have scored a few more,” added Jagielka.
He earned special praise from delighted Everton manager Marco Silva, who told the BBC: “He was to start on the bench, but showed how he is a good professional and prepares himself for what the coach and team needs. He is always ready to help the team.”
Arsenal, who have conceded at least one goal in every league away match this season, came closest with one curling second-half effort from Henrikh Mkhitaryan but were outplayed and outfought by Silva’s team.
They had only two attempts on target in the whole match and, with Mesut Ozil failing to offer much inspiration as captain for the day, endured one of their more frustrating lacklustre away days.
Arsenal’s frustration became obvious when the two managers were involved in a brief confrontation in the second half.
“The football is emotional. He wants the best for his team, I want the best for mine. At the end we spoke together and everything is normal,” said Silva.
Arsenal boss Emery felt his team would have to rebound swiftly as they prepared to face Napoli in a Europa League quarter-final first leg on Thursday.
“It was not a good result today but we are still fourth,” said the Spaniard. “We lost and we need to get up quickly and find the next step.”
Reporting by Ian Chadband; editing by Clare Fallon