Cardiff City 2-3 Arsenal: Late Alexandre Lacazette strike seals win for Unai Emery’s determined Gunners
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Arsenal played Cardiff City in South Wales on Sunday, Read on for Layth Yousif’s match report.
An entertaining match high on attacking endeavour but low on defensive discipline saw Arsenal beat Cardiff City 3-2 on Sunday lunchtime.
An 11th minute Shkodran Mustafi goal was cancelled out by an excellent strike from Victor Camarasa on the stroke of half-time.
The Gunners went 2-1 up through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang before Danny Ward levelled for Neil Warnock’s side.
Unai Emery’s visitors regained the lead with nine minutes remaining through a powerful near-post finish by Alexandre Lacazette.
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Earlier Emery made two changes from the team that beat West Ham United 3-1 last weekend.
Goalscorer Lacazette started with Henrikh Mkhitaryan making way to accommodate him while Alex Iwobi disappeared from the squad altogether as Mesut Ozil returned.
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Whether he returned from his sickbed or the doghouse is a moot point but what was clear was that the Arsenal boss expected a more influential performance from the former Real Madrid star.
Raw but impressive young starlet Matteo Guendouzi kept his place alongside Granit Xhaka as Lucas Torreira had to be satisfied with a place among the substitutes again.
Cardiff against started with the burgeoning Joe Ralls in midfield with the experienced Sol Bamba in an attacking role.
Danny Ward, Junior Hoilett and Bobby Reid all returned to the Bluebirds starting line-up after Huddersfield.
Warnock’s side had yet to register a goal in 270 minutes of Premier League action so far.
The only goal they have scored this term came in the 3-1 home defeat in the second round of the Carabao Cup against Norwich City through Bruno Ecuele Manga.
Cardiff flew into the visitors from the off with the forward line pressing the backline immediately.
You can just imagine the relish Warnock showed when instructing his men to pressurise Petr Cech when attempting to play the ball out from defence.
It wasn’t long until Cardiff – fed by a passionate home crowd fuelled by a rousing rendition of Men of Harlech on the tannoy prior to kick-off – forced an error from Cech.
The lively Reid harried the former Chelsea keeper who played the ball meekly to the Arter on seven minutes on the edge of the area.
With only Cech to beat the former Bournemouth man fired over when well-placed.
The defensive naivety again proved that while it may be nice to want a stunning house, to build one without the right materials is simply folly.
Thankfully for Emery’s sake the attacking instinct which lies in the club’s DNA came to the fore moments later.
Four minutes after Arter’s pivotal miss, Mustafi put the Gunners in front with an emphatic header after a corner from the left taken by Xhaka.
The goal was just what Emery’s side needed in front of a baying crowd, already annoyed by Lacazette going down after Sean Morrison came into contact with him in the box in the opening stages.
The Bluebirds could have equalised on 18 minutes after good work down the right flank by the 25-year-old former Bristol City attacker Reid, whose cross, the onrushing Ward narrowly failed to connect with.
What did connect was Nacho Monreal’s boot on Reid in the 24th minute, rightly earning him a booking as the resulting free-kick came saw Cech gather securely.
Lacazette was unlucky not to score after a well-worked move across the edge of the Cardiff penalty area with his low right-footed shot rebounding off the far post and away to safety.
Cardiff were to capitalise moments before the break after Xhaka gave the ball away cheaply in the middle third. The home side broke with Joe Bennett whipping a cross into a crowded box.
The ball fell to Camarasa who fired home after Xhaka gave the ball away to prompt a profitable Bluebirds attack.
Camarasa, the talented 24-year-old on loan from Real Betis showed superb composure to rifle home with seconds remaining in the opening 45 minutes – but for Arsenal to cede possession in the middle third was poor.
It’s one thing to be pressed into losing the ball around the edge of the area attempting to stay true to your principles quite another to see such a sloppy pass.
It was simply unacceptable from Emery’s Arsenal.
The second half started brightly for the Gunners as they pushed forward but with little end product.
That was until Aubameyang showed his quality to curl home on 61 minutes following a neat layoff from Lacazette after Ozil fed him the ball to make it 2-1.
However, a Warnock-led side never gives in and Ward equalised with 20 minutes remaining after Morrison nodded the ball to him in a crowded box.
The 26-year-old former Huddersfield attacker angled his header past Cech low into the far corner off the post to send the home fans into raptures to level at 2-2.
In an entertaining game which featured exuberant attacking with poor defending Arsenal went ahead again with nine minutes remaining.
Lucas Torrieira, who had replaced the tiring Guendouzi on 70 minutes, fed the ball to Laceztte from the edge of the area.
The striker showed his predatory instincts by driving home powerfully at the near post to put Emery’s side ahead again.
As the clock ticked down the noise you could hear in a previously raucous stadium was the 3,000 Arsenal fans singing their hearts out at the victory.
After the first few weeks of the Emery rollercoaster it was a wonder they hadn’t already lost their voices from the excitement of the first four games, which has now seen two wins the bounce.