Arsenal kept their noses in front of Everton in the race for the fourth and final UEFA Champions League qualifying berth with a comfortable 3-0 win at future FA Cup final opponents Hull City in the English Premier League on Sunday.
The Gunners welcomed Mesut Ozil back from a hamstring injury and he played a part in the 31st-minute move that led to Aaron Ramsey drilling the visitors in front.
In response, Hull midfielder Jake Livermore drove a low shot against the post, only for Lukas Podolski to emphatically volley home Arsenal’s second goal just before halftime from Ramsey’s chested layoff.
Podolski claimed his second goal in the 54th minute, tucking away the rebound after Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor had blocked from the irrepressible Ramsey.
“We kept a clean sheet and we scored three goals, and overall I believe the performance was good,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
“It’s in our hands. Do we win our games? So let’s just focus to win the games. We have a great desire to do it and I think we can, but it’s down to the quality of the performance in every game,” Wenger said.
The victory provisionally put Arsenal four points clear of fifth-placed Everton, but Roberto Martinez’s side trimmed their lead back to a point with a clinical 2-0 defeat of Manchester United.
It was United manager David Moyes’ first visit to Goodison Park since he left to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson last year and it was to prove a chastening one, as his side fell to their 11th defeat of a dismal campaign.
Leighton Baines, a one-time United transfer target, put Everton ahead from the penalty spot in the 28th minute after Phil Jones had blocked a shot with his hand and Kevin Mirallas added a second goal shortly before halftime.
“What I was pleased with was that the team showed a real focus in wanting to win the game,” Martinez said.
“We were very fresh. The squad is ready and that’s pleasing,” the Spaniard said.
Defeat for United means that last season’s champions can no longer qualify for the Champions League, after 18 successive seasons in the competition.
Asked if it hurt, Moyes told a TV reporter: “It does, because it’s part of this club and we want to be in it. We’ll do everything we can to get ourselves back in it as quickly as we can.”