Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored a brace as Arsenal stretched their unbeaten run to 13 games and secured safe passage to the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup with a 2-0 win over Reading at the Emirates.
The England international scored either side of the break to cap a fine individual showing and fully deserved the standing ovation afforded him by a buoyant Emirates crowd when he was substituted late on.
Arsenal had much of the better play in the opening stages, Carl Jenkinson forcing a save from Ali Al Habsi after a neat exchange with Alex Iwobi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, starting in the centre of midfield, curling just wide on 19 minutes.
Moments later Lucas Perez rejected the chance to shoot when put through on goal, the Spaniard instead tried to find The Jeff only for his pass to be intercepted.
The Gunners, full of youthful enterprise and quick feet, fired more efforts in on goal. Before the half hour Iwobi curled wide and Elneny fired straight into the keeper’s arms.
The visitors, under the stewardship of former-Manchester United defender Jaap Stam, were patient in possession and deliberate in the build-up play but rarely troubled Damien Martinez’s goal.
When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found the net on 33 minutes it was nothing more than the Gunners deserved. It was a superb solo effort with the England international charging at the Reading box with pace before firing a low shot inside the far post on the diagonal. (1-0)
For all their dominance, the Gunners were lucky to make the half-time break with their lead intact as a shot by Callum Harriott from outside the area deflected off Gabriel and bounced off the top of Martinez’s bar.
Oxlade-Chamberlain set the tone for more Arsenal domination after the break with another determined run and shot. This time his effort was deflected for a corner.
Reading offered little up front although substitute Yann Kermogant did force a decent stop from Martinez who dived full stretch to claim his header across goal.
The Jeff made way for Olivier Giroud on 65 minutes, the striker making his first appearance since the red card picked up against Paris Saint Germain, and immediately took up a central position. Within five minutes the Frenchman nearly had his first goal of the season as his header from Elneny’s deep free-kick forced a great reflex stop from Al Habsi.
Lucas, who’d been hustle and bustle all evening without threatening to score, picked up an ankle knock on 70 minutes and was replaced by Chris Willock. The youngster could have scored with his first touch only to scuff a rebound wide after Chamberlain had again tested Al Habsi.
The Reading keeper next had to deny Iwobi whose rasping shot was destined for the top corner before a fine finger-tip save.
The mounting pressure proved too much for the visitors who finally caved with 12 minutes remaining.
After fine work by Rob Holding, who showed great skill to dart into the Reading box, the ball bounced to the edge of the area courtesy of a Giroud pass where Chamberlain hammered home a low shot through the crowded box.
There was a slight deflection as it found its way in, but the goal was nothing less than the England international deserved for a man of the match performance. He’d barely finished celebrating when Arsene Wenger replaced him with Gedion Zelalem. (2-0)
In the dying moments, Martinez preserved his clean sheet with a decent stop low to his left to keep out a free-kick. All in all, a very professional showing from the mix-and-match Gunners. Let’s hope for another home draw in the next round.