By Nik Brumsack at KC Stadium
Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott each scored twice to ensure Arsenal's progression to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Hull City on Tuesday night.
In a game that was tight for large periods, Giroud gave Arsène Wenger’s side the lead just before the break when intercepting David Meyler’s backpass and sliding the ball under Eldin Jakupovic for his first goal in 12 games.
The striker - who became a father for the second time on Monday night - celebrated with the ‘baby rocking’ celebration made famous by Bebeto at the 1994 World Cup.
He added his second to give Arsenal some breathing space after 71 minutes, confidently steering home Walcott’s dangerous cross.
Walcott himself made absolutely sure of Arsenal’s progression soon after, opening his body to guide the impressive Joel Campbell’s pass beyond Jakupovic before adding further gloss to the scoreline with a crisp low finish late on.
The only negative from the night was the injuries picked up by Per Mertesacker, Gabriel and Aaron Ramsey. Hopefully they won’t prove to be too serious.
But in general this was a very positive evening. Arsène Wenger’s side love the FA Cup - and this win stretched their unbeaten run in the competition to 16 games.
Having gone five matches without victory, this was a comprehensive return to winning ways. It all means that Arsenal will host Watford for a place at Wembley on Sunday lunchtime. On the basis of this performance, they have a good chance of achieving just that.
SETTING THE SCENE
With this Arsenal’s first game in a hectic 12-day period, it came as no surprise to see Wenger make changes to his side from the team that had drawn at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. There were six in total, with Calum Chambers, Alex Iwobi and Giroud all coming in. Hector Bellerin, Danny Welbeck, Alexis and Mesut Ozil were among those to make way.
In fact, Wenger’s team bore resemblance to the one that had drawn when these sides met in N5 on February 20 - with only Laurent Koscielny and the rested Welbeck missing.
Hull manager Steve Bruce had stated pre-match that his side’s “priority is the league” this season. His side showed seven alterations from the team that were beaten at Birmingham last Thursday but he still included the likes of Curtis Davies, Mohamed Diame, Tom Huddlestone and Ahmed Elmohamady. Arsenal loanees Isaac Hayden and Chuba Akpom were ineligible.
Hull’s disciplined and dogged approach had frustrated Arsenal at Emirates Stadium - and they started in a similar fashion here.
The Gunners did have the ball in the back of the net after just three minutes, but Walcott had strayed offside before sweeping home Chambers’ lofted pass.
Campbell curled wide at the end of an incisive counter but, that half-chance aside, Arsenal initially struggled to break down their hosts, with the final pass often going astray.
Hull became more of an attacking threat as the half wore on and came mightily close to taking the lead after half an hour. Nick Powell’s free-kick wasn’t properly cleared and, after a spot of pinball in the Arsenal penalty area, Meyler’s low 16-yard shot was superbly touched wide by David Ospina. After play was recycled, Hull had the ball in the net, but the assistant referee's flag had gone up for offside.
Soon after, Nacho Monreal came on for Per Mertesacker, who had earlier been involved in a clash of heads with Powell.
It looked as though the half would finish goalless, but then Meyler gifted Arsenal the lead. In possession inside his penalty area, the midfielder’s attempted backpass fell well short of Eldin Jakupovic, allowing Giroud to sweep the ball underneath the goalkeeper for his first goal in 12 games.
That was the first goal Hull have conceded at home in 2016 - a second almost followed just moments later. A corner was played short to Kieran Gibbs who, from 25 yards, unleashed a fine curling effort that clipped the bar on its way over.
Jakupovic had frustrated Arsenal at the Emirates and he was on hand to prevent Elneny from scoring his first Gunners goal just after the restart, acrobatically tipping the Egyptian’s shot over.
Hull however, proved more of an attacking threat after the break. Diame and Powell both failed to test Ospina when presentable opportunities came their way, before Ramsey glanced a clearance just wide of his own post.
But as the game became increasingly stretched, Arsenal started to threaten more on the counter.
They scored their crucial second after 71 minutes, Giroud volleying in Walcott’s cross, before the latter ensured progression with a cool finish from Campbell’s perfectly-weighted pass soon after.
The tie was finished but Arsenal weren’t. Jakupovic, who had been excellent oer the course of this tie, denied the excellent Iwobi a first senior goal with a flying save but blotted his copybook somewhat when beaten by Walcott at his near-post just before full-time.
At full-time the 3,000-strong travelling contingent sang of Wembley - and Arsenal are just one round away now.
Referee: Mike Jones
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