Arsenal 1-0 Everton: Happy 125th, Gunners!

It just had to be one-nil on our 125th birthday, right?

For once in my life, I was actually on time for one of these things - now, I know what I've been missing all this time.

Nothing. Not a bloody thing. I think it must have been the 20th minute before anything of note happened whatsoever.

Let's rewind for a second, though. The keeper, midfield and striker all picked themselves (though the looming specter of Manuel Almunia was on the bench should young Wojceich Szczesny have gotten hurt), while the boss opted to shift Thomas Vermaelen out to the left. With Johan Djourou on the right, that left a central defense of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.

That said, the opening stages of the match consisted of an unofficial competition as to who could go offside more often. The poor linesmen were certainly getting a workout, much more so than the goalkeepers at any rate. Still, Arsenal were seeing more of the ball and looked OK. It's just that they were clearly not prepared for the almost suicidally-high line that the Everton defense were playing.

In open play, Arsenal were having trouble breaking them down. The first clear chance of the game came when Marouane Fellaini gave the ball away in midfield. Mikael Arteta won it from his former teammate and sent Theo Walcott off to the races. Walcott surged down the right-hand side and honestly should have taken the shot himself. Instead, his cutback was played into the mixer with both Aaron Ramsey and Gervinho waiting. The pass was too far ahead of Ramsey, and the Ivorian, clearly expecting his teammate to receive it, let it get tangled in his legs. By the time he could get himself sorted, there were enough blue shirts back to shepherd it out of danger.

A warning shot, then, but frustrating in the sense that most other teams in the league probably would have scored there.

A while later, a loose ball near the Everton area was won by Alex Song, who laid it off for Ramsey. The Welshman took it on his left foot and sent a beautiful curling effort towards goal. Sadly, it rested neatly on top of the net, having missed by mere inches.

Some of the faithful were convinced that this would be one of those matches that we out-chance the opponent by hatfuls and lose 1-0. There was one problem with that theory though, and that's that Everton couldn't score in a women's prison with a fistful of pardons.

Gervinho was the next to get in behind the Toffees' defense, as a backwards header from Tim Cahill was pounced upon by the man with the giant forehead. He came in alone on Tim Howard and at least got it on net. It perhaps wasn't the greatest finish in the world, but the American stopper still had to be on his toes and made a decent save.

That was about all there was to report from the first half, other than referee Howard Webb showing a few inexplicable yellow cards (to both sides, in fairness) for fouls that warranted just a free kick. Quelle surprise, eh?

The second half meandered along much like the first, with Arsenal getting all of the actual chances. Howard was tested again, from a move starting from the Gunner backline. It came out to Arteta, who played a one-two with Ramsey. Ramsey laid it off for the run of Walcott, who then absolutely abused Leighton Baines with a sneaky dribble. He beat his man, and got a strong shot away. Sadly, Howard was able to claw it to safety. Still, the statement of intent was there and it's good to see young Theo continuing to play well.

Up the other end, Everton had one of their few chances of the match when Seamus Coleman's cutback to Rat-Faced Chav Phil Neville was met with a shot that looped over the crossbar to safety.

Finally, the breakthrough came in the 70th minute...and man alive, did it come from absolutely nothing, too. Arsenal were pinging the ball around when Song decided to go with the old Route One. His lobbed pass over the Everton defense was brilliantly weighted, allowing van Persie to run onto it perfectly (and onside this time, too!). On the dead run, van Persie hit an exquisite left-footed volley past a stunned Howard, off the post and in.

Seriously, are you kidding me? What a goal...what a MAGICAL goal. When the cameras showed Thierry Henry applauding it in the crowd, you just knew that this day would belong to Arsenal. What a birthday present from the Dutchman.

David Moyes opted to make some changes shortly after the goal, bringing off the dreadful Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (the one guy who ensures that Arsenal don't have the worst Russian in the Premier League this season) and Rat-Faced Chav, and bringing on Magaye Gueye and 19-year old embryo Conor McAleny, who doesn't look a minute over 8.

Wouldn't you just know it, but it was their young lad who almost tied the game. A long ball caused some bother in the Arsenal defense, and McAleny was left all alone just outside the area. His half-volley was sweetly struck, and for a second I thought "Oh, not again". I mean, how many times over the last few seasons have we been victimized by no-names and fetuses, whose one moment of glory always happens to be a goal against us?

It didn't happen this time, though...Szczesny was beaten all ends up, but the shot trickled inches wide of the far post. That was their chance.

There were about 194 minutes of stoppage time for some reason, which at least meant some minutes for the substitutes - Ignasi Miquel on for TV5, Tomas Rosicky for Gervinho and Emmanuel Frimpong for Walcott. It all passed with a minimum of fuss, leaving Arsenal with all three points on the day.

So, until Chelsea play at any rate, we're back into the top four. This was a decent effort against a determined opponent, and picking up points when you don't play well is the hallmark of a good team.

After the match, the NYC Arsenal Supporters Club had our annual holiday party and raffle. I highly commend the bravery and patience of the Blind Pig waitresses, as every single tray of food that came out was set upon by packs of hungry jackals. Seriously, does anyone feed us at home or what? More importantly, we raised over $1500 for the Bowery Mission, and some folks walked away with some excellent prizes.

Me? I won a Theo Walcott away jersey. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's a Boys Large, so I may be able to wear it without scandal if I can somehow cut, say, 40 pounds or so. Bloody hell.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7, Vermaelen 7 (Miquel N/A), Koscielny 7, Mertesacker 7, Djourou 7, Song 7, Arteta 7, Gervinho 6 (Rosicky N/A), Ramsey 6, Walcott 7 (Frimpong N/A), van Persie 8

Man of the Match: Duh...who else but Robin?