Report: Reading 2-5 Arsenal
Santi Cazorla’s hat-trick spear-headed Arsenal to a 5-2 victory over Reading on Monday.
Wenger’s men produced such a storming first-half display that they went into the break with a healthy 3-0 lead after Podolski’s fine opener and a double from Cazorla. Somehow though, that lead was not nursed so healthily after the restart as Arsenal switched off following Cazorla’s third goal which made it 4-0. Complacency was creeping into the Gunners’ heads at that point and Reading capitalized by scoring twice in quick fashion as the game suddenly came to life.
Despite that nervy period, today really belonged to Arsenal and so all arguments were finally put to bed when Theo Walcott took his chance and scored Arsenal’s fifth with a classy finish. Substitute Olivier Giroud spurned a couple of chances to add more gloss to the scoreline late on but today was all about the positives.
The tone was set early as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, supporting Walcott and Podolski in attack, tested Reading goalkeeper Federici before Jobi McAnuff squandered a good chance for the Royals at the other end after the ball was pulled back across the face of the goal with Arsenal’s defence in danger.
But after 14 minutes, the Gunners’ efforts in attack paid off. Gibbs found Podolski with a cross and the German sublimely controlled the ball down and smashed it home. Walcott then failed to score after a one-on-one chance against the goalkeeper, but Arsenal’s second goal did arrive when Cazorla squeezed himself into the penalty box to produce a diving header onto Podolski’s cross. And not too long after, the Spaniard turned and guided the ball into the net from almost the same area which he scored his first after more slick work from Arsenal’s left flank.
Despite all the Arsenal pressure, Reading’s goalkeeper Federici was in hot form between the sticks as he denied a goal-bound Oxlade-Chamberlain header moments before half-time. But after the break, the shot-stopper could do nothing to prevent a superb Arsenal passing move which was rounded off by Cazorla slotting the ball home from another Podolski assist.
At 4-0 up, Wenger’s men were giving flicks and tricks while their fans sang praises in the stands so you sensed the hosts could not wait to shut them up for at least one moment. Indeed, Reading would be given the chance to do so twice and they did not turn it down. First, Gibbs’ pass to Wilshere at the heart of Arsenal’s territory was unsuccessful as the midfielder slipped, and Le Fondre beat Vermaelen’s last-ditch tackle to run past Szczesny and pull one back for the home side.
That seemed like a consolation goal only until Kebe took advantage of more slack Arsenal defending to score and give the Royals some hope of chasing a devastating comeback with about 20 minutes left.
But to be fair to Arsenal – who brought on Ramsey and Coquelin to beef up the defence – they matched Reading’s growing momentum and when a brilliant move from Cazorla found Theo Walcott, the aspiring striker was in ruthless mood as he shifted and directed the ball towards the bottom corner of net for the Gunners to finally claim a much deserved 5-2 victory.