Arsenal recovered from the shock of defeat against Bradford City with a flourish, dismantling Reading at the Majdeski Stadium in a match they should have won by more than three goals. Santi Cazorla's heroics will be the story of the day after the midfielder notched a hattrick and an assist, but the man of the match was probably Adam Federici -- and it tells you a lot that only a phenomenal day from the Royals keeper prevented them from leaking far more than the five goals they conceded.
The game started at blistering pace, with both sides defensively open. The hosts could easily have pulled ahead when Santi Cazorla failed to prevent Pavel Pogrebnyak from making inroads down the Reading right, with only a miskick from Jimmy Kebe thwarting the move.
But the breakneck pace suited Arsenal, who threatened whenever they went forward and took the lead 14 minutes in when a hilariously inept display by the Royals' centre backs allowed Lukas Podolski to take down a cross and poke in to make it 1-0.
Although Federici thwarted the Gunners' next chance, when he denied a through-on-goal Theo Walcott, one of eight key saves he made on the day, he couldn't keep Arsenal out for long. A diving header from Cazorla doubled the visitors advantage, and then shortly thereafter he struck again for a 3-0 lead.
Reading had played abysmally in the first half -- a 6-0 scoreline at the break wouldn't have been out of the question -- and any hope they had of getting anything out of the game relied on them turning things around in the second. That didn't happen, and Cazorla got his hatrick after a square pass from Podolski and an easy finish.
Then something rather curious happened. Reading scored. Then they scored again. The first came after a mistake by Kieran Gibbs, whose pass to Jack Wilshere put the England internation in a heap of trouble. He slipped over, allowing the hosts to push through the centre, and the chance was finished off by Adam le Fondre in the 66th minute for a consolation goal.
Then, five minutes later, the Royals struck again through Kebe, who was fed by Hal Robson-Kanu thanks to Podolski making a complete mess of the Gunners' defensive line and keeping Kebe onside by five yards. With twenty minutes to play and only two goals in the match, were Reading set for a shocking comeback?
No, as it turned out. Kebe's goal was the hosts' last piece of even mildly threatening play, and Theo Walcott pushed Arsenal's lead back to three when he turned Kaspar Gorkss inside out and slotted past Federici in the 80th minute. From that point, the match was a formality, although the Gunners could have won by even more had they gone for it.