Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fired Arsenal into the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup with both goals in a routine 2-0 win over Reading on Tuesday.
When these two sides met at the same stage four years ago, Arsenal came back from 4-0 down to win an incredible contest 7-5 after extra-time, but this encounter was a much more straightforward affair.
Arsene Wenger’s men have not lost in all competitions since the opening day of the season, and they were dominant throughout at the Emirates Stadium as Oxlade-Chamberlain broke the deadlock late in the first half.
Reading are just a point off the play-offs in the Championship, but have been on a tough run of late and their hosts proved their class before the break with a string of chances culminating in the opener.
Although Arsenal had enough chances to tally a handsome score against their second-tier visitors, goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi stood firm for long periods before Oxlade-Chamberlain’s deflected second put the game to bed.
Wenger was able to welcome back Olivier Giroud – who had not featured in just over a month – from injury off the bench, but Lucas Perez was withdrawn with a knock in the second half.
This trophy has continued to evade Arsenal’s clutches under Wenger – finishing as runners-up in 2007 and 2011 – but they move into the last eight in fine form after this success.
Carl Jenkinson had the game’s first shooting chance when he took Oxlade-Chamberlain’s flick inside the area, but he shot first at Al-Habsi and then nodded the rebound over.
At the other end, Jordan Obita side-footed into Emiliano Martinez’s arms, while Perez should have shot as he ran through, but looked for a pass and the opportunity was gone when his square ball fell short.
Arsenal continued to pile on the pressure and the goal finally arrived in the 33rd minute.
As Reading again failed to sufficiently clear, Oxlade-Chamberlain took up possession on the right, ran at two retreating defenders and drilled a fine finish into the far corner of the net.
A shock equaliser almost followed, though, as Callum Harriott’s strike deflected narrowly over the crossbar off Gabriel.
Just as in the opening period, Arsenal took a while to get going after the restart and Martinez was required to make a fine save when he held from Yann Kermorgant’s header back across goal.
Wenger responded by calling Giroud from the bench to roars of appreciation, and the Frenchman almost doubled his side’s lead immediately.
Nodding Mohamed Elneny’s free-kick towards the top corner, Giroud was denied by a stunning Al-Habsi save, with a goalmouth scramble somehow preventing an own goal from Danzell Gravenberch.
Giroud then slipped in Oxlade-Chamberlain, who looked set for a second, but Al-Habsi again stood up to save, and Alex Iwobi bundled the rebound wide.
Oxlade-Chamberlain did manage his second, however, with 12 minutes remaining as another poor attempted clearance from Reading set up a strike for the former Southampton man, and his low effort took a deflection into the top corner to clinch Arsenal’s progression.