Post-Match Report

Arsenal 2-0 Hull City - Report

Hull City -

Emirates Stadium
The FA Cup
The FA Cup
  Arsenal
      
                  Mertesacker (20)
                   Alexis (82)
            
   crest
Arsenal
Mertesacker (20)
Alexis (82)
2 0
  Hull City
   crest
Hull City

By Chris Harris at Emirates Stadium

SUMMARY

Per Mertesacker and Alexis Sanchez were on target as Arsenal started their latest FA Cup quest as they ended their last - with a win over Hull City.

It was rather more straightforward than that Wembley triumph as the Gunners avoided an early collapse and instead took the lead through their German centre back's first-half header. It was the perfect way for Mertesacker to mark his 150th appearance for the club.

Alexis settled the tie with eight minutes left, spinning on the edge of the box to beat Hull goalkeeper Steve Harper with a curling shot.

Arsenal could have had more but Harper kept out Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott, while a brilliant clearance from Stephen Quinn denied Alexis.

Walcott's first start for precisely a year was another highlight for the Gunners, and he showed flashes of his best as well as signs of ring-rust in a valuable 76 minutes.

The England man's return was one of many positives - and Arsene Wenger's hopes of a sixth FA Cup triumph are alive and well.

SETTING THE SCENE

This was inevitably billed as a 're-run' of the 2014 FA Cup final but, in the event, only two of Arsenal's line-up at Wembley started this third-round fixture. They were Mertesacker and Santi Cazorla, scorer of the fabulous free-kick that hauled the Gunners back from the brink last May.

Of more significance was the presence of Walcott, making his first start exactly a year since suffering a serious knee injury against Tottenham.

Walcott was one of four changes from the side that lost at Southampton on New Year’s Day. Calum Chambers partnered Mertesacker so Laurent Koscielny dropped to the bench, while Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerin, Campbell and David Ospina came into the team.

Hull had looked dangerous in a 2-2 draw at Emirates Stadium in October and were coming back into form after two wins in three matches. Their formation hinted at an attacking approach with Sone Aluko and Yannick Sagbo paired up front.

FIRST HALF

Arsenal managed to avoid going two down after nine minutes this time. Indeed, they should have had an early lead of their own.

Campbell, stationed on the left, burst infield after four minutes and played a one-two with Alexis. The return pass took Campbell into the box but his shot was too close to Harper and the goalkeeper stuck out a leg to divert the ball away.

Ospina showed his authority in the early stages, punching clear from Tom Huddlestone's dangerous delivery, but the Arsenal keeper was a spectator for much of the half.

Alexis was next to go close, collecting a pass from Walcott and scooping an audacious effort just over the bar after seeing his first shot blocked.

Tom Ince got beyond Monreal to shoot low past Ospina's near post on the quarter-hour, but the visitors were behind five minutes later.

It was Mertesacker who delivered the blow, climbing above Curtis Davies to send a downward header past Harper from Alexis' corner. It was the German's first goal since another FA Cup header - the vital equaliser in last year's Wembley semi-final against Wigan Athletic.

Mertesacker's goal threatened to open the floodgates. Tomas Rosicky stormed through the centre and slipped in Alexis, who jinked past Harper only to see Quinn slide in to clear his shot.

Harper's reflexes were tested seconds later when the resulting corner flicked off Sagbo, and the Hull keeper was called upon again when Cazorla picked out Walcott inside the box.

Arsenal's slick interplay and attacking pace were prominent throughout the half and they continued to fashion half-chances. Campbell's first-time shot was the best of them but the Costa Rica striker saw that effort deflected wide.

SECOND HALF

Alexis fired the first shot of the second half, low and to Harper's right, but it lacked power.

The home side looked perfectly comfortable but, just one goal to the good, they remained vulnerable. Mertesacker hacked clear a particularly dangerous delivery from McShane but, for the most part, Arsenal worked hard to close down those crosses and starve Sagbo and Aluko of service.

With Hull kept at arm's length, all that remained was for Arsenal to land a killer blow.

The first decent opening fell to the hardworking Campbell following good work from Cazorla, but the forward dragged his shot across goal.

A rock-solid sliding challenge from Harry Maguire denied Alexis inside the box after Bellerin had made inroads down the right, and Walcott scuffed wide after being put through by Alexis. It was the kind of chance Walcott would gobble up with a few games under his belt.

Alexis himself forced a scrambling block from Harper as Arsenal looked for a two-goal cushion, before Walcott left to a standing ovation after 76 much-needed minutes.

A nervy finale looked on the cards, but Alexis made the tie safe eight minutes from time.

Cazorla was the architect, feinting to shoot and instead feeding Alexis on the edge of the box. The Chilean controlled, span and arrowed a shot into the bottom corner.

Referee: Robert Madley
Attendance: 59439