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Oxlade-Chamberlain double fires Arsenal into League Cup quarters

A 2-0 win clinches Arsenal's place in the League Cup quarters and was fully representative of a dominant team performance.

Published: 26th October 2016 10:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th October 2016 10:06 AM   |  A+A-

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Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, left, scores a goal during the English League Cup soccer match between Arsenal and Reading. | AP

By The Daily Telegraph

Arsene Wenger receives almost daily reminders of his longevity at Arsenal and, having overseen some of the most thunderous grudge matches in English football against the Manchester United vintage of Jaap Stam, must have been grateful for the rather gentler test that was provided here by Reading.

A 2-0 win clinches Arsenal's place in the League Cup quarter-final and was fully representative of a dominant team performance, of which the decisive contribution was provided by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

He also scored here against Ludogorets in the Champions League last week and, while there was also some uncertainty in his finishing, his tireless running was rewarded with a second and third goal in the space of a week.

Oxlade-Chamberlain had needed an entire year last season to score as many goals.

Arsenal's fluidity caused problems from the start. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jeff Reine-Adelaide soon exchanged passes to put Carl Jenkinson clear on goal but his shot was blocked by Reading goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi. Alex Iwobi then released Oxlade-Chamberlain but his subsequent cross was rushed when just a bit more composure would have presented Iwobi with a wonderful chance. 

Arsenal's principal threat was still largely evident down Oxlade-Chamberlain's right flank and, from his partially cleared cross, Ainsley Maitland-Niles found space on the edge of Reading's penalty area and curled his shot narrowly wide. More powerful running from Oxlade-Chamberlain created another chance for Lucas Perez but Arsenal's new pounds 17?million striker was also guilty of over-complicating the situation by attempting virtually to walk the ball into the goal with Reine-Adelaide and allowing Reading back to clear.

A goal, though, had become almost inevitable and the identity of the scorer was no surprise. Oxlade-Chamberlain, once again, created panic in the Reading defence with his direct running and made space in front of Tyler Blackett before drilling his low finish into the corner of Al-Habsi's goal. 

Reading's expansive football was also rewarded with first-half chances. Jordan Obita forced a save of Emiliano Martinez when Rob Holding could only partially clear with his header. Dominic Samuel also sprinted into space in front of Holding but shot wide. Reading did then almost draw level shortly before half-time when Callum Harriott's shot from just outside the penalty area was deflected off Gabriel and high over Martinez but the ball eventually nestled on top of the goal when it could just have easily looped under the crossbar.

Oxlade-Chamberlain started the second half with the same purpose but, having seemingly carved out enough space to shoot from a very similar position to his earlier goal, his effort was blocked by Liam Kelly. 

There was then a lull in Arsenal's tempo that allowed Reading another clear sight of goal but Yann Kermorgant, who had come on in the 56th minute, was just unable to get sufficient power with his free header to seriously trouble Martinez.

Wenger then responded by finally introducing Olivier Giroud, who was been out for the past month with a toe injury and remains yet to start an Arsenal match since playing for France in Euro 2016.

Giroud's impact was almost immediate, with him rising unmarked to meet Mohamed Elneny's free-kick but prompting a brilliant reaction save by Al-Habsi. In the ensuring goal-mouth scramble, Liam Moore also made a goalline clearance to keep Reading in the game. As well as his aerial threat, Giroud's wider qualities in linking Arsenal's attacks are easily underestimated and he soon produced a deft pass to release Oxlade-Chamberlain. The attempted finish again lacked authority, however, with Al-Habsi easily saving and Chris Willock then slipping as he stretched to convert the follow-up.

Arsenal were increasingly dominant and, after Holding made an unexpected sprint to the byline, Giroud was able to again cleverly work the ball back into the path of Oxlade-Chamberlain whose shot was helped past Al-Habsi with a deflection off Obita.



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