Eddie Nketiah’s delightful finish added gloss to a 3-0 win Arsenal were made to work hard for at home to AFC Wimbledon in the third round of the EFL Cup.
Arsenal had won their prior two matches – against Norwich City and Burnley – by just a single goal and looked to be heading for another narrow victory as they struggled to add to Alexandre Lacazette’s early penalty.
A late flurry consisted of a vital second from Emile Smith Rowe and Nketiah’s gorgeous flick, however, and Mikel Arteta’s men have some momentum to carry into Sunday’s derby against Tottenham.
Third-tier Wimbledon were far from embarrassed, although they must have feared the worst having conceded inside 11 minutes.
Nesta Guinness-Walker’s rash lunge on Gabriel Martinelli on the right side of the penalty area gave Lacazette an opportunity from 12 yards, which he dispatched by sending Nikola Tzanev the wrong way.
But that goal was Arsenal’s only shot on target of the first half, even if Tzanev almost gifted them a second when he palmed a looping ball against his own crossbar following Cedric Soares’ corner.
A fierce Thomas Partey shot was pushed away after the break, while Nuno Tavares could only direct a far-post header against the upright.
Arteta was forced to bring on Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka to put the game to bed, however, and the Arsenal number 10 found the breakthrough, prodding in after a scramble with Lacazette claiming the assist.
Nketiah’s backheel took the game away from Wimbledon, before Saka twice came close to getting his own name on the scoresheet, whipping a first shot wide and finding Tzanev his match from the second.
What does it mean? Gunners get there eventually
Arsenal had scored six in the previous round at West Brom but lacked the same killer touch in front of goal on Wednesday, settling for three goals.
The Gunners had 19 attempts, including 12 from inside the box, but they took 48 touches in the Wimbledon area, too often dallying instead of shooting. At West Brom, the London outfit had only 23 touches in the opposition box.
Arteta will hope Arsenal are more ruthless this weekend.
No match for Martinelli
Wimbledon really struggled on the left-hand side, with Guinness-Walker unsure how best to handle Martinelli and then Saka. His foolish early challenge on the former was clearly not the answer.
The left-back was exposed time and again, though, as he got no protection from Jack Rudoni, who was dribbled past four times.
Saka almost steals the show
Martinelli had been one of Arsenal’s better performers, but Saka took them to another level entirely. In a 14-minute cameo, he had two shots, created one chance and completed two dribbles.
It’s the big one for Arsenal on Sunday, as Spurs visit. Wimbledon return to League One and a trip to Shrewsbury Town.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!