By Rob Kelly at King Power Stadium
Alexis scored a brilliant hat-trick as Arsenal claimed a well-deserved victory against Leicester at King Power Stadium on Saturday.
The Chilean international had not scored from 31 shots on goal this season prior to kick off, but returned to form in thrilling fashion during a frenetic affair.
The match got off to an electric start, with Santi Cazorla, Jeffrey Schlupp and Jamie Vardy all going close in quick succession, before the latter gave the hosts the lead on the counter.
But back came Arsenal and within five minutes they had their equaliser, Cazorla releasing Theo Walcott through the middle, and the England striker slotted home confidently with his left foot.
It was quite a game, the action zipping from end to end at a breathless pace but the Gunners took charge of the game just after the half-hour mark when Alexis fired in his first of the season from close range.
The second half did not have quite the same pace as the first, but the visitors remained in control and extended their advantage when Alexis nodded home from a lovely Mesut Ozil pass.
Still Arsene Wenger’s side came at Leicester, with Walcott, Ramsey and then Ozil coming close to adding a fourth goal.
Finally it came 10 minutes from the end when Alexis smashed home a fierce drive to seal a brilliant individual performance.
There was still time for Vardy to score his second of the game, but Olivier Giroud added a fifth right at the death as Arsenal claimed a victory that sends them up to third in the table.
SETTING THE SCENE
The big news prior to kick was the inclusion of Mathieu Flamini in Arsenal’s line up following his midweek north London derby heroics.
The Frenchman had not made a Premier League game since last December, but such was his performance at White Hart Lane that he was one of only three players to retain his place in Wenger’s side.
Aaron Ramsey and Per Mertesacker were the other survivors, with the latter captaining the side on his first Premier League start since recovering from a chest infection.
Leicester were the only side in the Premier League still to taste defeat this season, but the Gunners had only failed to score once in 18 games against them and had not been beaten by the Foxes since the 1994/95 season.
It made for a fascinating duel between two of the league’s most attacking outfits - with the promise of goals and entertainment in spades.
With the hosts in such impressive form, the King Power Stadium was bouncing as the match got underway - and both sides immediately set about trying to establish their dominance.
The Gunners did not have long to wait for their first opportunity when, with just seven minutes on the clock, Cazorla saw a low drive cleared off the line.
But Leicester came straight back at the visitors, Schlupp stinging Petr Cech’s hands with a fierce drive before Vardy hit the post from the edge of the box moments later.
It was a clear warning for Arsenal - but one they did not heed as, within two minutes, the hosts broke on the counter and released Vardy down the left. The Foxes forward took advantage of some hesitant defending to race into the box and, with the goal gaping, drilled his shot beyond Cech to give the hosts the lead.
It was a breathless start to the game, but the action did not let up as the hosts continued to press to extend their advantage but, seconds after Vardy had hit the bar from close range, it was all square.
It was a classic Arsenal counter, with Cazorla collecting the ball and busting forward before playing Walcott in on goal with a perfectly-weight slide-rule pass.
There was still much to do, but the England international kept his cool to hold off Robert Huth and roll his shot beyond Kasper Schmeichel and into the far corner. It was the consummate “striker’s finish” and spoke of Walcott’s growing confidence in the role.
It was a breathless encounter, the action flitting from end to end almost by the minute but steadily Arsenal began to exert their influence and push the home side back into their own half for an extended period.
Finally their waves of pressure told when, with 34 minutes on the clock, Ozil played a disguised pass on the edge of the area to release the overlapping Hector Bellerin.
The right-back looked up and rolled the ball across the six-yard box and while Walcott could not get enough on his shot, Alexis was there to gleefully fire in his first of the season.
The match could surely not sustain the same pace after the interval as in that amazing first half, but the Gunners remained on the front front.
Alexis had a golden opportunity at the start of the half to extend the visitors’ advantage but Leicester crowded him out in the box, before his deflected shot looped on to the roof of the net moments later.
But the Chilean international did not have long to wait for his second and, just before the hour mark, he extended Arsenal’s advantage when he rose above Schmeichel to head Ozil’s brilliant pass into the far corner.
It was no more than the visitors deserved for a second-half display full of poise and attacking brio and it served to momentarily silence the home crowd. But, having seen their side come back to salvage at least a point in four successive games, it was clear the game was far from over.
Yet it was Arsenal who looked the more likely to add to their total, with Walcott testing Schmeichel, before Ramsey and then Ozil came close during the closing stages of a thrilling affair.
Alexis completed his hat-trick with a fierce drive from the edge of the area 10 minutes from the end, and that put the cherry on an excellent performance from both the Chilean and his team-mates.
Vardy added a late consolation for Leicester, but it could not take the gloss off a fantastic afternoon’s work for Wenger’s side, who claimed their fifth when Giroud slotted home in injury time.
Referee: Craig Pawson
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