Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Coquelin, Rosicky, Cazorla, Walcott, Campbell, Alexis
Subs: Martinez, Debuchy, Koscielny, Zelalem, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Maitland-Niles, Akpom
Arsenal had Per Mertesacker and Alexis to thank as they broke Hull hearts again with a 2-0 win in the FA Cup at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger made a number of changes to his team, handing starts to David Ospina, Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Nacho Monreal, Theo Walcott and Joel Campbell following the 2-0 defeat to Southampton on New Year’s Day.
At home, Arsenal had lots of early possession and should have taken a 5th minute lead through Joel Campbell. The Costa Rican made a run in from the left, played a one two with Alexis, and with just the keeper to beat he was thwarted by Harper’s right foot.
The game became a bit more even after that with both sides probing, but again it was Arsenal who threatened. Alexis won the ball back in midfield, fed Walcott who returned the ball in the box and the former Barcelona man saw his shot blocked by Maguire. He then tried to chip it to the far post but was too close to goal to make it work.
There was a warning sign from the visitors when Tom Ince’s run saw him get into the Arsenal box but his left footed shot fizzed wide. Paul McShane head a header easily saved by Ospina, before Arsneal took the lead in the 20th minute.
After a great Bellerin cross resulted in a corner, Alexis whipped the ball in and Per Mertesacker rise highest to nod home from close range to make it 1-0. It was the German’s first goal of the season and his first since the Wigan semi-final.
Less than a minute later it was almost two. Tomas Rosicky brilliantly ran at the Hull defence, played in Alexis who rounded the keeper but McShane cleared brilliantly off the line. It was, to give him credit, fantastic defending. From the resulting corner Nacho Monreal’s stooping header was saved, again by the legs of Harper.
Theo Walcott combined with Cazorla whose beautifully cushioned pass fashioned a chance which again saw the keeper make a save, while at the other end Harry Maguire’s header from a Hull corner went through a sea of legs and forced Ospina into a save.
Walcott had another effort blocked on the edge of the box, Campbell curled an effort wide via the head of a Hull defender, and Arsenal wasted some good set-piece opportunities to put Steve Bruce’s side under more pressure before the half-time break.
Arsenal had the first attempt of the second period when Alexis drove into the box but his shot was easy for Harper, but the visitors began the half better with much more of the ball. At times Arsenal couldn’t get near it but a storming run from Rosicky was halted only by a last ditch tackle and when the ball fell to Campbell on the edge of the Hull box he dragged his shot wide when he really should have done better.
Despite Hull’s continued domination of the ball, Arsenal should have been further ahead when Thei Walcott spurned a glorious chance. Played in by Cazorla the England winger showed all the signs ofa man who has spent 12 months out of the game as he dinked the shot over the keeper but wide of the post.
There were further signs of his rustiness when he failed to collect a fantastic Coquelin pass, again while clean through, and it was no surprise when he was replaced on 76 minutes by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Ox almost had an immediate impact when an Alexis cutback found him in the box but it hit his rear end and bounced away from goal, but in the 82nd minute the second goal finally came. Arsenal worked the ball well through midfield, Cazorla picked it up, fed the Chilean who turned and curled the ball beautifully into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.
That was his last involvement as he was replaced by Chuba Akpom, while Francis Coquelin picked up a yellow for a leaping lunge of a tackle in which he was lucky not to make real contact with the opponent.
There was time for a late FA Cup debut for Ainsley Maitland-Niles as he replaced Joel Campbell and in the end the Gunners saw off last year’s finalists to go through to the 4th round of the competition.