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Dublin: 7°C Thursday 6 May 2021

Walcott and Ozil on target as Cup holders Arsenal hold off Brighton

The 3-2 victory was the Gunners’ fourth straight win and booked their place in the last 16.

Image: John Walton/EMPICS Sport

FA CUP HOLDERS Arsenal just did enough to keep second-tier Brighton and Hove Albion at bay with a 3-2 fourth-round win at the Amex Stadium.

Goals from Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Tomas Rosicky saw Arsene Wenger’s side into Monday’s draw for the last 16, although second-half efforts from the Brighton duo of Chris O’Grady and Sam Baldock helped set up a tense finish on the south coast.

Even so, Arsenal never looked in real danger of suffering a a shock to rival either of Saturday’s stunning FA Cup upsets, which saw Premier League leaders Chelsea lose 4-2 at home to third-tier Bradford City and Manchester City go down 2-0 to second division Middlesbrough at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsene Wenger’s side were mostly on superb form, putting in one of their best displays of the season in terms of attacking movement.

They made a blistering start, going ahead within two minutes as Walcott hit his first goal in over a year.

The quality of finish didn’t look like that of a player out injured for so long, as the England winger angled a drive past David Stockdale from about 12 yards out after Callum Chambers’s run and pass.

Soccer - FA Cup - Fourth Round - Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal - AMEX Stadium Mesut Ozil, who made his first start since October, grabbed Arsenal's second. Source: John Walton/EMPICS Sport

Walcott wasn’t the only player enjoying a return to the team or the scoresheet.

Ozil was making a first start since a knee injury in October and promptly scored his second goal of the season.

A glorious passing move — again driven by Tomas Rosicky — ended with Ozil checking inside just by the penalty spot and effortlessly taking a defender out of the equation, before sliding the ball past Stockdale.

Brighton, however, hauled themselves back into the match after half-time as O’Grady made it 2-1 with a brilliant drive into the bottom corner from just outside the box.

The hosts might also have had a penalty when Inigo Calderon went down under a challenge, but referee Michael Oliver was unmoved.

Soccer - FA Cup - Fourth Round - Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal - AMEX Stadium Tomas Rosicky was Arsenal's stand-out performer. Source: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Typically for the day, though, Rosicky took control.

Yet another Arsenal surge forward ended with the ball coming out to the Czech on the edge of the box, and he immediately powered a low volley on the hour past Stockdale, who had little chance.

In the 75th minute, Baldock was released in the box and supremely chipped over Wojciech Szczesny with a finish to match any produced by Arsenal.

It said much that Wenger quickly hauled off Ozil for Francis Coquelin, but the Gunners managed to hold on.

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