Football: Arsenal refuse to pay penalties

Theo Walcott scoring Arsenal's second goal at Hull. The Gunners comfortably defeated 10-man Hull despite Alexis Sanchez missing a penalty. Arsenal won a third consecutive Premier League game for the first time this year.
Theo Walcott scoring Arsenal's second goal at Hull. The Gunners comfortably defeated 10-man Hull despite Alexis Sanchez missing a penalty. Arsenal won a third consecutive Premier League game for the first time this year.PHOTO: REUTERS

Gunners miss from the spot while Hull score from 12 yards out, but visitors prove too strong

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Hull City 1 Arsenal 4

How Arsenal must wish the campaign had started two weeks later. They produced a performance of excellence to see off the early-season pacesetters Hull City to mean that, for the first time this year, they have recorded three successive league wins. They have momentum and confidence, but they are five points behind Manchester City, courtesy of their first two results. As ever, they are playing catch-up.

They are doing so in compelling fashion. Arsenal were both terrific and flawed, threatening to run riot, yet in danger of conceding an equaliser to the 10 men of Hull. Alexis Sanchez's brace proved pivotal in a scoreline of some significance.

Leicester City lost at Hull, Manchester United relied on a stoppage-time goal to win, but Arsenal's superiority was apparent from the opening exchanges. They played like the home side, dominating possession. Hull acted like the away team, dropping deep.

It suits Mike Phelan's counter-attacking game plan, but the truth is his charges were outclassed. Arsenal's movement was too elusive, their passing too incisive. They found plenty of space even when they faced 11 men.

Idiosyncratic to the last, Wenger left summer signing Granit Xhaka on the bench for 65 minutes and selected Sanchez as the striker; Lucas Perez, the forward he signed at the end of the window, was only a late replacement.

Wenger will not be rushed into buying or into picking the men he eventually purchases.

His side's first three goals involved a man who joined in 2006, not 2016: Theo Walcott.

For the opener, his effort looked more cross than shot but it required a save from Eldin Jakupovic. Yet the Hull goalkeeper only succeeded in parrying the ball into Alex Iwobi's path and his half-volley deflected in off Sanchez.

Hull's problems mushroomed even as Arsenal's lead stayed the same. Jake Livermore was sent off for deliberate handball when he palmed Francis Coquelin's shot away. Jakupovic made a better, and more legitimate, save to push Sanchez's penalty past the post.

Instead, Walcott doubled the lead. He played a lovely one-two with the influential Iwobi, with the 20-year-old backheeling a defence-splitting pass. And, while Harry Maguire got a touch to Walcott's chipped finish, he only headed it into the net. It was still Walcott's goal, and the 100th of his career.

The 10 men responded. Phelan sent on Ryan Mason and Dieumerci Mbokani. The midfielder sent the striker scurrying clear. Petr Cech brought him down. The erratic referee Roger East initially waved the penalty appeals away, then gave the decision. Robert Snodgrass scored from 12 yards.

It provoked a response from Arsenal. Walcott sprinted clear, Jakupovic saved from him but Sanchez had the composure to take two touches before lifting a shot into the roof of the net. Then Xhaka fired in an unstoppable piledriver. Game over.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 18, 2016, with the headline 'Arsenal refuse to pay penalties'. Print Edition | Subscribe