By Walter Broeckx
As expected a lot of changes compared to the starting line up against Middlesbrough for this League cup match.
In fact the only 2 survivors of that match are Iwobi and Elneny in the starting line up. Lucas, Oxlade-Chamberlain also starting this match.
At right back we find Carl Jenkinson for the first time since a very very long time on the field again. After being injured at West Ham, sorry State Aid United at the start of the year he finally has his first return to first time football. Wishing all the best to live long Gooner and Gunner Carl.
At the heart of the defence we find Holding and Gabriel with todays captain Kieran Gibbs at left back.
Maitland-Niles playing in midfield togethe with Elneny and in the attacking part of the team we find The Ox, Iwobi and Lucas and Jeff Reine-Adelaide.
On the beach we welcome Olivier Giroud back who seems to have recovered finally from his injury and European Championship fatigue. Welcome back Olli.
Arsenal team: Martinez, Jenkinson, Holding,Gabriel, Gibbs, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Lucas.
On the beach: Macey, Bielik, Bola, Sheaf, Zelalem, Willock, Giroud.
A good action from The Ox sets up Jenkinson who had a shot on goal but Al Habsi with a save and then Jenkinson headed the rebound over. What a comeback that would have been for Carl. Al Habsi just first on the ball in front of Lucas and then The Ox then with a shot/cross but the ball went wide. Maitland-Niles just couldn’t control the ball well enough and Al Habsi could claim it in the end. Reading with a promising attack but the danger is sniffed out by a combined effort from defenders and midfielders. 0-0 after 15 minutes.
An Arsenal combination in the middle just fails in the end as a defender can get a foot in. The Ox with a good run and a cross that ends up in front of Maitland-Niles but his shot went just wide with Al Habsi stranded. A first shot from Reading but a comfortable save from Martinez. Lucas one on one with Al Habsi but he tries a pass to a teammate instead of taking the shot and a defender first on the ball. Elneny goes down injured after clashing with a Readin player and needing treatment. Maitland-Niles then with bad pass but Gibbs to the rescue with a fine tackle. Arsenal with lots of bodies in the Reading penalty area after a free kick but in the end the ball goes out for a goalkick. Elneny with shot but the angle favoured the goalkeeper who could stop his effort. Still 0-0 after 30 minutes.
Oxlade-Chambarlain then gets the ball at the right flank, goes a bit inside the penalty area and then unleashes a low shot that beats the keeper at the far post. GOAL!!! 1-0 to The Arsenal after 33 minutes. Finally the well deserved lead. Arsenal now taking it a bit easier letting Reading a bit more in the match. Out of the blue a shot from Reading is diverted by the head of Gabriel and lands on top of the goal with Martinez on the ground. Al Habsi at the other end punching a corner away but Niles puts the rebound over the goal. A Reading corner is half cleared and the shot is stopped by another Reading player. After 45 minutes Arsenal go in the dressing room with a 1-0 score line.
The Ox with a run but a defender blocked his effort for a corner. And a bit later Lucas on the left flank but again a defender cutting out the shot. Gibbs with a little slip letting Reading in with a chance to counter but Arsenal can clear the danger. Elneny almost intercepting a bad kick from the Reading keeper but he was pulled back. Martinez with an excellent save on a header from a Reading player after a good attacking spell from Reading. Some young legs getting tired after 60 minutes? Arsenal still 1-0 in front.
After 64 minutes Giroud comes on for Reine-Adelaide. Gravenberch who seemed to be a type of big and stupid defender kicked Lucas on the achilles without getting a yellow card. Elney with the free kick, header from Giroud super reaction save from the keeper and then another header towards the goal but the ball is cleared off the goal line and then the rebound is put out for a corner. Lucas has to come off injured. Thank you, you stupid defender. And again, no card for this foul. Willock comes on after 71 minutes. The Ox with a good run and a 1-2 with Giroud and a shot that is saved by the keeper and Willock misses the rebound in front of an almost open goal. This should have been a goal for Arsenal. Finally the ref gives a yellow card for another cynical foul on The Ox this time. Still 1-0 in front after 75 minutes.
Iwobi with a hard shot from distance but the keeper saves it and Arsenal get a corner. Holding recovers the ball at the far post and puts it back in front of the goal to Giroud who plays it to The Ox whose shot finally beats the keeper. GOAL!!!! 2-0 to the Arsenal after 78 minutes. Giroud is then fouled by Moore a foul for which Xhaka got a red card… okay consistency is lost and now only a yellow card. No chance of playing the ball, Giroud with only one defender to beat, a cynical kick from behind…. oh well…
After 79 minutes The Ox leaves the field and Zelalem comes on. Willock with a promising opening after being put in space by Zelalem but his cross goes wide. Reading get a free kick for a foul from Gabriel and Martinez with a super save on the low effort. Important stop with only a few minutes to go. Don’t want to let them in with a chance in the end. Elneny can’t keep his shot down from distance in extra time.
A good solid win from a mixed team with lots of youngsters who did a good job amongst the older and more experienced players. Up to the next round. But please let us hope for no injuries. 2-0 to The Arsenal.