English Premiership

Walcott brace helps Arsenal see off Swansea

Theo Walcott (AFP)
Theo Walcott (AFP)

London - A brace from Theo Walcott helped Arsenal edge Swansea City 3-2 in a tightly-contested clash at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Theo Walcott had the Gunners ahead with a brace in the first half, and they seemed to be cruising towards half-time until an error from Granit Xhaka gifted Gylfi Sigurdsson the chance to curl one in before the break.

A stylish volley from Mesut Özil, celebrating his 28th birthday, restored Arsenal's two-goal lead in the 57th minute, until some industrious wing play from Modou Barrow set it up for Borja Baston to pull one back for the Swans.

Xhaka then picked up a straight red card for a cynical foul on Barrow, setting up a nervy finish. Walcott came within inches of his hat -trick when he struck the post in the 84th minute.

The Gunners made a bright start to the match, and looked dangerous in the early minutes, coming closest to breaking the deadlock in the 12th minute when a corner from Mesut Ozil picked out Shkodran Mustafi, whose header banged against the crossbar.

The home side broke the deadlock in the 26th minute thanks to Theo Walcott. A looping ball into the box picked out the run of Hector Bellerin down the right flank, with the Spanish full-back heading it towards Walcott at the near post. Jordi Amat initially intercepted the headed pass, but the Spanish defender dawdled with his clearance, allowing Walcott to nip back in and poke it home.

It was to be a one-two blow for the Swans, who found their goal under pressure once again with Arsenal looking for a second. Alexis Sanchez blasted narrowly off-target when slipped through in the 29th minute, before a slick passing move ended with Bellerin seeing his shot deflected wide for a corner.

The resulting set-piece would turn into Walcott's second of the afternoon when some poor defending from Federico Fernandez saw the Argentine miss the ball completely, and it dropped to the English winger for an easy close-range finish.

The Gunners looked to be cruising into halftime when the Swans struck in the 38th minute, but it all started with an error from Granit Xhaka, who needlessly lost possession just outside the Arsenal box to Gylfi Sigurdsson, and the Icelandic playmaker punished the Swiss midfielder's error with an elegant, curled finish into Petr Cech's far corner.

Arsenal had their two-goal lead restored just eight minutes after the restart thanks to birthday boy Mesut Ozil. Alexis sent a cross in towards the German at the far post, and the former Real Madrid playmaker met it with a top-class, first-time volley into the roof of the net.

The Gunners looked to be cruising until the 66th minute, when Modou Barrow made his way down the right flank all the way into the Arsenal box and played it square for Borja Baston to tuck home from close range.

It got worse for Arsenal three minutes later when Barrow looked to go on another foray down the right wing and was chopped down by Xhaka, a professional foul that referee Jon Moss deemed worthy of a straight red card.

Barrow was involved again in what should have been the equaliser in the 76th minute, when the Gambia international was put in behind with a clever chip from Wayne Routledge, but his header was easily caught by Cech.

Walcott should have had his hat trick when he struck the post in the 84th minute, or in the third minute of added time when the ball was squared to him by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

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