Sanchez shines and Walcott returns as Arsenal see off Hull
Gunners bounce back from Southampton defeat with win in repeat of last season's cup final
Arsenal 2 Hull City 0. A repeat of last season's FA Cup Final produced far less drama than May's showpiece at Wembley as Arsenal eased to a 2-0 victory over Hull. Back in the spring the two sides conjured a classic cup final, the Humbersiders racing into an early 2-0 lead before the Gunners completed a stirring comeback to win 3-2 in extra-time.
At the Emirates on Sunday goals in each half from Per Mertesacker and Alexis Sanchez saw Arsenal progress into the fourth round at the expense of a Hull side currently just two points above the relegation zone. Not surprisingly the club has other priorities right now, which may explain why manager Steve Bruce made ten changes from the side that beat Everton in the Premier League on New Year's Day.
Arsenal also fielded a side with some unfamiliar faces including Theo Walcott, who was making his first start for the Gunners since sustaining a knee injury against Tottenham in last season's third round tie. There were also rare outings for David Ospina in goal, Hector Bellerin, Francis Coquelin and Joel Campbell.
But it was one of the mainstays of the Arsenal XI, central defender Mertesacker, who gave the defending champions the lead on 20 minutes when he headed past Steve Harper from a Sanchez corner. Though Hull created precious few chances themselves, they blunted the Arsenal attack until eight minutes from time when Santi Carzola teed up Sanchez for his 16th goal of the season. "We were quite composed and deserved it," reflected Mertesacker. "I am really proud of my team because no matter who plays we always stick together."
Bruce, who is down to his last 18 fit players because of an injury crisis, admitted his side had been second best throughout. "If we're going to be honest Arsenal deserved to win," he said. "We just needed to stay in there but unfortunately, at the top end of the pitch, we were unable to create anything."
As for Arsene Wenger, the victory was a welcome fillip after the dismal 2-0 defeat to Southampton on New Year's Day – a match marked by the incursion onto the St Mary's pitch of a disgruntled Arsenal fan who confronted his manager.
"We were in control and it was a positive game," said Wenger, who was then asked for his thoughts about Arsenal's performances in the past fortnight. "I analysed this Christmas period a bit and we played on December 21, 28 and January 1 away from home," explained the Frenchman. "I looked at all the teams that played the 28th and the 1st away from home. That means the two consecutive games, none of the teams won. Nobody. We had three away games out of four and I think we took more points than anyone else, even if we were very disappointed at Southampton."