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Football: MARC IS ALL OVER THEM; EVERTON 0 ARSENAL 1 - Pulled apart by a Dutch of pure class.

ARSENAL OLD-BOY Stephen Hughes ended up with a gashed head and seeing double, but it was his Everton team-mates who had blurred vision - thanks to Roadrunner Marc Overmars.

The brilliant Dutch flyer tortured and tormented Everton with his searing pace at Goodison Park and topped off an eye-catching display with a matchwinner that leaves the Gunners with one foot in next season's Champions League.

Overmars was great as Arsenal cruised to a routine win that was effortless once they'd won the muscle war with an Everton side just about ready to hit the beach.

The Dutchman was the star turn on a day vital to their hopes of securing a top-three finish.

And it couldn't have been better scripted as Liverpool went down at Chelsea, enabling Arsenal to leap-frog them into second spot.

But despite the afterglow of a crucial win, Arsene Wenger doesn't believe his men can plan for the Champions League just yet - even though they're bang in form with four games left.

"We need three more points for some kind of European football next season but the question of who goes straight to the Champions League won't be settled until the final day of the season," said the Arsenal boss.

In a season in which Wenger expected his stars to be breathing down Manchester United's neck, it's understandable he's taking nothing for granted.

But as they extended their impressive recent run to ten straight League and Cup wins, surely nothing can prevent them rounding off their roller-coaster season with a top-three place.

They easily had the measure of an Everton side who didn't kick-start into action until the closing minutes by which time Arsenal were on cruise control.

Until then, Walter Smith's men - who hadn't been beaten at home by any of the top four sides this season - were second best to Arsenal's superior ability in absolutely every department.

Even without the injured Henry and Suker, Arsenal had too much menace for Everton.

With Keown and Adams unflinching against the physical threat of Mark Hughes and Hutchison, Everton found they couldn't batter their way through. And while Collins was a game trier he couldn't match Petit's swaggering composure.

And then, of course, there was Overmars.

The nippy Dutchman had so much pace and awareness Everton simply couldn't cope with his darting bursts and the only mystery was how the Gunners managed just a solitary goal.

Ironically, it was Everton who carved the first opening with Hutchison pulling the ball back from the byline for Collins, who lifted his shot just over.

A goal then might have put a different complexion on the game for after that it was all Arsenal until the last moments. Bergkamp and Hutchison both escaped punishment for separate flare-ups as tempers boiled over but the petty feuds were forgotten once Arsenal scored.

Parlour and Overmars had both gone close before the Dutchman made what ultimately proved the decisive breakthrough.

Bergkamp managed to hold off Xavier and although he was falling, still retained enough balance to push the ball into Overmars' path. The winger sped clear, showed marvellous control to tee-up a shot, then delivered a drive that whizzed past Gerrard.

With a little more luck Arsenal could have been 3-0 up by the break after Bergkamp struck a post and Overmars shot just over the bar.

Smith implemented a wholesale interval shake-up, taking off unlucky former Gunner Hughes, who ended up with a nasty cut and double vision after a clash of heads. Dunne was also a half-time victim as Smith reshuffled his pack, dropping Hutchison into midfield as the defence played musical chairs.

If the Goodison boss reckoned he could snuff out Arsenal's class that easily he was wrong as they continued to dominate.

Keown, Overmars and Petit all went close and the arrival of Vieira, for Bergkamp, added more solidity to the Arsenal cause. When Everton did finally kick-start into action it was all too late although Hutchison, Jevons and Collins gave Seaman something of a fright.

Smith was less than happy with his side, saying: "It was a disappointing performance, especially in the first half when we didn't do very much at all.

"I can't criticise the players too much because that type of performance has been out of character for them and it's the first time we've lost to one of the top teams at Goodison.

"When you play like that you don't deserve to take anything from the game and we didn't."

Man of the Match: OVERMARS ... stunning

OFFSIDES 1

CORNERS 2

FREE KICKS CONCEDED 12

FOULS COMMITTED 11

YELLOW CARDS 1

RED CARDS 0GOAL ATTEMPTS 13

OFFSIDES 4

CORNERS 4

FREE KICKS CONCEDED 19

FOULS COMMITTED 15

YELLOW CARDS 1

RED CARDS 0 HOW WE RATED THEM EVERTON

GERRARD: A busy boy 6

DUNNE: Couldn't handle Overmars 5

XAVIER: Another good display 8

WEIR: Struggled at times 6

UNSWORTH: Solid enough 7

PEMBRIDGE: Fringe performer 5

S HUGHES: Not at races (wdrn) 5

COLLINS: Tried his best 6

BARMBY: Disappointing 5

M HUGHES: Frontline battler 6

HUTCHISON: Grafted as usual 6

Subs: JEFFERS: No real impact 5, BALL: Bright and busy 6, JEVONS, WARD, SIMONSEN.ARSENAL

SEAMAN: No real dramas 6

DIXON: Neat and tidy 6

KEOWN: Combative 7

ADAMS: Never ruffled 7

SILVINHO: Steady show 6

PARLOUR: Kept Barmby quiet 7

GRIMANDI: Nothing flash 7

PETIT: Made them tick 8

*OVERMARS: Fabulous finish 9

BERGKAMP: Dangerman (wdrn) 7

KANU: Not at best 6

Subs: VIEIRA, WINTERBURN,

MANNINGER, LUZHNY, BLACK
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:BATES, Steve
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 30, 2000
Words:913
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