By Rob Kelly at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Hull City will go to a replay after a frustrating goalless draw at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners dominated throughout but, despite creating a host of chances, could find no way through against their Championship opponents.
The first half saw the hosts in complete control but up against a goalkeeper in Eldin Jakupovic in sensational form.
The Hull stopper twice denied the lively Danny Welbeck in the early stages, before he was finally beaten - only for Alex Iwobi’s curling strike to fizz past the post.
Theo Walcott was next to have a go, only for Jakupovic to deny him at his near post before Welbeck had a penalty shout waved away by referee Mike Dean.
Arsenal continued to apply the pressure after the interval, with Walcott seeing an early effort palmed away by the visitors’ goalkeeper.
The goal just would not come for the hosts, and frustrations grew as Jakupovic touched a fine Joel Campbell free kick on to the post.
Welbeck came close to breaking the deadlock with a deflected shot from the edge of the area, but once again Hull’s goalkeeper came to their rescue.
There was still time for Jakupovic to push away an Alexis free kick from the edge of the area in injury time - but this time there would be no late winner.
SETTING THE SCENE
After 14 FA Cup wins on the bounce, Arsenal came into this game with no shortage of confidence - and boosted by their dramatic last-gasp victory against Leicester City last weekend.
The hero of the hour, Welbeck, was rewarded with a first start for the club since the Gunners’ FA Cup semi-final triumph against Reading in April 2015 - some 308 days earlier.
The England international lined up on the left flank as one of nine changes to the team, with just Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker - who captained the side - retaining their places.
Mohamed Elneny was drafted into the base of the midfield for his second start, Iwobi’s eye-catching form saw him handed the No 10 role and Walcott was restored to his favoured central striking position.
Arsenal had won nine and drawn one of their previous 10 fixtures against Hull City, including that unforgettable fightback in the 2014 FA Cup final, but the visitors are back on the rise.
Bruce’s side came into this match two points clear at the top of the Championship and with the second meanest defence in the Football League.
Although they were without the ineligible Arsenal loanees Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden, they would provide a stern test of the hosts’ credentials as they sought a third straight FA Cup triumph.
The Gunners started brightly and soon started to apply the pressure, dominating possession and pinning the Tigers back into their own half for extended periods.
Not long after Elneny had seen a first-time shot blocked from a neatly-worked corner, the red shirts poured forward again to create a series of chances.
The first came after good work from Walcott, who span away from Curtis Davies on the edge of the area before getting to the byeline and standing a good cross to the far post. Welbeck charged in to attack the ball, but his header was straight at Jakupovic.
The Hull goalkeeper was called into action to again deny the England international minutes later when Calum Chambers fed the striker in the box, but his fierce drive was palmed around the post.
After the visitors failed to adequately deal with the resulting corner, Joel Campbell then found Iwobi on the edge of the area and the teenager curled a low strike inches beyond the far post.
A goal seemed a matter of time, and Walcott was next to try his luck after good work from Chambers to find him in the area, but once again Jakupovic was equal to firm drive.
Welbeck then had a decent penalty shout turned down as the Gunners continued to knock on the door, but they could find no way through before the interval despite their dominance.
It was the same old story at the start of the second half as Arsenal carved open a good opportunity straight away as Kieran Gibbs cut the ball back for Walcott in the area, but once more Jakupovic made a smart save.
Minutes later Iwobi saw his shot deflected just past the post from the edge of the area, before Campbell saw his curling free kick touched on to the post by Jakupovic soon afterwards.
Wenger’s side were getting closer and closer, but each time they found Jakupovic in inspired form - and the Hull goalkeeper was once again at his best just after the hour mark to claw away a deflected Welbeck shot.
Alexis and Olivier Giroud were thrown into the action as the Gunners continued to turn the screw, and the latter soon showed his quality as he barrelled his way through but saw his low strike saved.
With the hosts in the middle of a title race and back in Champions League action in midweek, a replay was hardly a welcome prospect, but as the clock ticked on it began to look a distinct possibility.
As frustration grew inside Emirates Stadium, so did the visitors’ confidence and sense of ambition - and the dangerous Sone Aluko started to cause real problems.
With three minutes left on the clock, Giroud found fellow substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with a clever knock-down, but the England international dragged his shot wide.
Jakupovic then denied Alexis in injury time, and that was the last act of a disappointing afternoon’s work for the Gunners, who now face an unwelcome replay at the KC Stadium.
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Referee: Mike Dean
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