Aaron Ramsey couldn't bring himself to celebrate against the club he played for from ages eight to 16, but he turned in a brilliant performance for Arsenal against Cardiff on Saturday, scoring two goals. The Gunners were superb throughout and earned a 3-0 win to stay on top of the Premier League table.
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In a sign of what was to come for the hosts, Jack Wilshere stunned the crowd with a blistering shot against the crossbar just a minute into the match. A goal looked inevitable throughout the early play, but didn't come for Arsenal until the 29th minute.
Between Wilshere's strike and the goal, there were a couple of events that had Arsene Wenger less than pleased. Per Mertesacker went down with a head injury after taking a headbutt to the jaw from Bacary Sagna, but was able to continue after a long delay. In the 15th minute, a bizarre sequence saw Olivier Giroud stop playing after he ended up with the ball in an offside position, but the linesman never raised the flag. It took two or three seconds for anyone to realize what had happened and Giroud eventually made a mess of his attempt, with the Cardiff defenders realizing play was live before he did.
Ramsey was the beneficiary when Arsenal's dominance finally turned into a goal in the 29th minute. He scored with one of his patented late runs into the penalty area, with Mesut Özil providing the assist. The German's diagonal was a perfect one, but the finish -- a powerful header from 12 yards -- was even more impressive.
The Gunners nearly struck again right after the break when Giroud found himself inside the six-yard box with the ball at his feet, but Ben Turner made a spectacular clearance off the line on his attempt. Four minutes later, Arsenal had their biggest scare of the game when Wojciech Szczesny was forced into a tough save on a header by Frazier Campbell.
While Arsenal had all of the ball and Cardiff were reduced to counters, the Gunners didn't produce too much in the way of clear chances again until the 86th minute. With Cardiff taking more risks to push for an equalizer, there was plenty of space to exploit, and substitute Mathieu Flamini took advantage. Özil picked him out with a brilliant through ball and Flamini blasted past David Marshall to score his first goal since returning to Arsenal for his second spell with the club.
Ramsey added a second against his boyhood club in stoppage time, once again taking advantage of room behind a desperate Cardiff midfield. Ramsey started the move with a pass to Theo Walcott, who burst down the right flank and squared for Ramsey. He set himself up with a touch, then hit a strike into the roof of the net at the near post to add insult to injury for the Bluebirds.
Cardiff: Marshall, Taylor (Cornelius 87'), Caulker, Turner, Theopile, Medel, Whittingham, Mutch, Cowie, Campbell (Odemwingie 65'), Kim (Noone 75')
Arsenal: Szczesny, Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Sagna, Arteta, Ramsey, Özil (Walcott 90'), Cazorla (Flamini 77'), Wilshere (Monreal 81'), Giroud
Goals: Ramsey (29', 90'), Flamini (86')