Monday, November 12, 2007

Reading vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Arsenal won away at Reading to reclaim the top spot in the Premiership on goals scored.

Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Alex Hleb made it 3-0 to the Gunners before Nicky Shorey pulled one back for Reading near the end of normal time to wrap up a comfortable win for Arsenal.

Reading: Marcus Hahnemann; Nicky Shorey, Ivar Ingimarsson, Graeme Murty, Ibrahima Sonko; Bobby Convey, Brynjar Gunnarsson, James Harper, Stephen Hunt; Kevin Doyle, Dave Kitson

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky; Alex Hleb; Emmanuel Adebayor

Arsenal started brightly, with Adebayor hitting the post in the fourth minute of play. This drew comparisons to Arsenal's 4-0 victory over Reading at the Madejski last season, in which they scored in the first minute.

Cesc Fabregas hit a brilliant through ball to the lanky Togolese striker. Adebayor rolled the ball calmly past the onrushing Marcus Hahnemann, only to see it roll out of play off of the base of the American keeper's right-hand post.

The near-miss showed Arsenal's attacking intent, but a Reading defense which placed ten men behind the ball proved difficult to break down, even for the defense-cutting Gunners.

Manuel Almunia was tested for the first time just after the 30 minute mark after a clearing header fell to Brynjar Gunnarsson. The Reading veteran made good contact with the ball but Almunia was equal to his effort, turning the ball past the post.

Six minutes later Arsenal were granted a great opportunity when Gunnarsson pushed Fabregas down just outside the penalty arc. Fabregas teed the ball up for Kolo Toure, but the center-back shot horribly wide.

Reading couldn't hold Arsenal back for too long though, and the Gunners finally got the goal they deserved just before the stroke of half time.

Adebayor found Hleb on an overlapping run, and the Belorussian midfielder unselfishly pulled the ball back to Mathieu Flamini who tapped the ball into the back of the net for his first goal of the season, bringing Arsenal into half time 1-0 up.

The young Gunners wanted to win by a two goal margin though, as they needed goal differential to go into the international break ahead of Manchester United.

It was Adebayor's chance to shine this time, finishing brilliantly after Cesc Fabregas (in his 100th Premiership start for the club) laid the ball back to the striker. It was Arsenal's 1,000th goal in the Premiership, and Adebayor's seventh of the season.

The big frontman got a second only minutes later, but was denied by a bad offsides flag. It was a well-worked goal, so it was a shame to see it go to waste.

Arsenal wouldn't be denied a third though, and it was Alex Hleb who would strike next after picking up a loose ball from a misplaced kick. The master-dribbler skipped past a challenge before coming face-to-face with Marcus Hahnemann. The Reading goalie dove to his right as Hleb faked him out, using his quick feet to pull the ball back onto his right foot before smashing a shot into the back of the net.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, there were still more than ten minutes to play.

Cesc Fabregas was booked for a foul on Emerson Fae, meaning that the Spaniard will face a one match ban for his fifth yellow card of the season.

Nicky Shorey, who has been called up to play for the England national team, then hit a free kick against Almunia's left upright.

The full-back got his consolation goal three minutes before the end of regular time, after a moment of chaos in the Arsenal defense. Shorey pounced on the mistake, and made none of his own, pulling one back for a sorry Reading.

It made no difference though, as Arsenal won their 27th game in all competitions to climb back to the top of the Premier League table with a game in hand.