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Arsenal 1 Doncaster Rovers 0: Walcott hits winner for Wenger´s men

20 September 2017 22:48

Theo Walcott scored his first goal of the season to earn Arsenal a 1-0 win over Doncaster Rovers and a place in the fourth round of the EFL Cup.

Walcott, who had not netted a competitive goal for the Gunners since April, pounced in the 25th minute to make it 1-0 at the Emirates and at that stage it looked as though Arsenal would steamroller their League One opponents.

Despite a glut of first-half chances the hosts failed to extend their lead and Doncaster, having frustrated Olivier Giroud as he sought his 100th goal for Arsenal, probed for an equaliser and gave the Premier League side a number of scares.

Darren Ferguson's men lacked quality in the final third and the few clear-cut chances they created went begging, leaving Arsene Wenger to reflect on a positive result and another good performance from Jack Wilshere.

The midfielder, who spent last season on loan at Bournemouth, made his first start for the club since May 2016 and was involved in much of Arsenal's best play, while full-back Reiss Nelson also emerged with credit on his full debut.

A lively opening four minutes saw Doncaster winger Rodney Kongolo draw a diving save from David Ospina with a low drive, before Giroud had a strong claim for a penalty turned down when the referee refused to acknowledge that he was hauled down in the penalty area.

The Frenchman almost scored a contender for goal of the competition two minutes later when he met Wilshere's delicately chipped ball into the box with an acrobatic scissor-kick that beat Ian Lawlor but rattled the crossbar.

Giroud headed a pinpoint Mohamed Elneny cross narrowly over the crossbar after 20 minutes as Arsenal camped themselves in Doncaster's half, with Wilshere and Nelson moving the ball around crisply.

The breakthrough arrived after 25 minutes when Alexis Sanchez looped the ball into the box and behind the Doncaster defence where Walcott arrived and took a touch to control before side-footing it past Lawlor and into the net.

Wilshere would have added a second with a rasping 30-yard drive had Lawlor not made an impressive save at full stretch, before lone Doncaster striker Alfie May lashed a shot against the side netting on the cusp of half-time.

Within three minutes of the re-start, Giroud created a golden opportunity to double Arsenal's advantage, but Walcott fired over the crossbar with only Lawlor to beat.

May, who only turned professional in January, looked set to equalise when he broke into Arsenal's half on his own after 58 minutes but he was easily caught by Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who dispossessed him as Arsenal survived a nervous moment.

Nelson drew a good save from Lawlor with an angled drive after 64 minutes, leaving Arsenal vulnerable to the threat of an equaliser and extra-time as Doncaster launched a series of counter-attacks in the closing stages, but Andy Butler and John Marquis both fired over the bar when chances fell their way.

Maitland-Niles scuffed a backwards pass on the half-way line and allowed Benjamin Whiteman a chance to run at goal, but once again the young Arsenal defender showed his pace and successfully back-tracked to cut out the danger.

Liam Mandeville and Matty Blair both had late chances to grab a dramatic late equaliser in the final six minutes, but both lacked accuracy in front of goal and Arsenal's slender lead survived.

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Monday 23 October

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Premier League table

# Team MP D P
3 9 +13 20
4 9 +7 16
5 9 +5 16
6 9 -2 15
7 9 +2 14

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