Arsenal beats Reading 5-2 in Premier League

Santi Cazorla scored a hat trick Monday as Arsenal emphatically

bounced back from its recent disappointments with a 5-2 win at

last-place Reading in the Premier League.

Coming off an embarrassing loss on penalties at fourth-tier

Bradford in the League Cup last week, Arsenal was back to its best

for the first hour at the Madejski Stadium, attacking at will and

taking a 4-0 lead when Cazorla netted his third in the 60th

minute.

Reading then somehow made a game of it by scoring two cheap

goals in five minutes, but Cazorla settled any nerves by setting

Theo Walcott up for the fifth in the 80th.

Lukas Podolski opened the scoring for Arsenal in the 14th, while

Adam Le Fondre and Jimmy Kebe netted for Reading.

The win lifts Arsenal back up to fifth place, two points behind

Tottenham and Chelsea, and more importantly restored some

confidence after last week’s fiasco at Bradford and a stretch of

inconsistent league results.

”We showed people, hopefully, the real Arsenal,” said Walcott,

who was given a rare chance to play up front rather than his usual

place on the wing.

Cazorla and Podolski had been among several Arsenal players to

struggle recently but the Spaniard especially seems to have

recovered his flair and creativity after imposing his will on the

Reading defense throughout the game.

It was Podolski, though, who put Arsenal in front after laying

the ball off to Kieran Gibbs on the left flank and then running

into the area to meet the defender’s cross. The German controlled

the ball with one deft touch before firing a shot past goalkeeper

Adam Federici.

Podolski then turned provider for Cazorla’s first goal came in

the 32nd minute, running down the left flank and sending a perfect

cross in toward the Spanish midfielder, who dove in to send a

header into the near corner. Cazorla then added his second just two

minutes later from a similar spot after Walcott’s cross from the

right was headed back by Gibbs. Cazorla controlled the ball with

his back toward goal before turning and slotting it into the bottom

corner.

Arsenal kept attacking after the break, and Cazorla completed

his hat trick after a text-book attack by the Gunners. Jack

Wilshere released Podolski down the left side of the area, and the

German slotted another cross back toward Cazorla to drill the ball

in at the far post.

Arsenal then relaxed, with Gibbs turning the ball over sloppily

in midfield and Jay Tabb feeding Le Fondre, who calmly rounded

goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to slot into an empty net. Kebe then

slotted home the second after a failed offside trap by the Arsenal

defense.

”I thought our response in the second half was excellent,”

said Reading manager Brian McDermott, whose team has just nine

points from 17 games. ”We gave our home crowd something to cheer

about.”

But the Gunners – who rallied from 4-0 down at Reading in the

League Cup in October to win 7-5 after extra time – ended any hopes

of a comeback when Cazorla led a quick counterattack and released

Walcott into the area, and the England winger stepped back inside

before slotting a curling effort into the far corner.

That capped off a night in which Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

said he saw some ”very encouraging signs” from his squad.

”I’ve said many times I believe in this team,” Wenger said.

”We need now to go from strength to strength.”