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Everton hold Arsenal

- Delofeu’s late strike negates Ozil’s goal; fulham win
Mesut Ozil vies for the ball with Seamus Coleman, in London, on Sunday. (AFP)

London: Gerard Delofeu’s late goal earned Everton a deserved 1-1 draw with Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday, after Mesut Ozil’s strike seemed set to seal three points for the home side.

An absorbing clash which sizzled throughout caught fire in the closing stages as Ozil swept Arsenal in front from close range in the 80th minute and substitute Delofeu fired a powerful shot past Wojciech Szczesny four minutes later.

Olivier Giroud almost snatched victory in stoppage-time for the hosts when his 30-metre thunderbolt thumped against the woodwork, although that would have been harsh on Everton who won against champions Manchester United on Wednesday.

With a treacherous-looking fixtures list looming, Arsenal lead the table with 35 points, five clear of Liverpool who were the only one of the top five to win this weekend.

Chelsea also have 30 points with Everton, who have lost only once in the league this season, fifth on 28.

At the other end of the table, Fulham showed signs of a revival under new manager Rene Meulensteen with a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa at Craven Cottage, Steve Sidwell and Dimitar Berbatov scoring the goals to snap a six-match losing streak.

Arsenal face Manchester City and Chelsea in their next two league fixtures and looked set to go into those battles with a seven-point cushion after record signing Ozil netted his fourth league goal since moving from Real Madrid.

Just when it looked as though Arsenal were going to draw a blank at home for the first time this season, Tomas Rosicky found fellow substitute Theo Walcott with a long diagonal pass and the England winger’s cross was missed by Giroud but popped up for Ozil to finish past Tim Howard.

Everton, for whom young midfielder Ross Barkley was superb throughout, refused to go home empty-handed, however, and when Romelu Lukaku failed to connect with an overhead kick, the ball ran to Spaniard Delofeu who took a touch before arrowing a powerful shot through Szczesny.

“The first-half performance was as good as it can be from an away side at the Emirates, to take the sting out of the game and stop Arsenal playing and creating a threat,” Everton manager Roberto Martinez said. “Their goal came from nothing but to display the character and come back to score with a goal of that quality was fitting for a game of that standard.”

A point was the reward for Everton’s first-half domination, much of which was inspired by the surging runs of Barkley. Strong and powerful, the 20-year-old dominated the midfield as England manager Roy Hodgson watched. Kevin Mirallas nearly found fellow Belgian Lukaku in one Everton raid while on the left flank Costa Rican full back Bryan Oviedo and Steven Pienaar cut through at will.