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November 30, 2013
• Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff (Caerdydd)
Referee: L. Mason
• Attendance: 27948
A. Ramsey 29', 90'+
M. Flamini 86'
That's my cue folks, it's been a pleasure. Bye for now.
Arsenal dominated, and pull out a comprehensive and convincing victory in Wales. It was hardly an easy match in the capital, but the Gunners dug their heels in and scrapped Cardiff all the way. Ramsey led the way with a double, and Flamini added another off the bench, but the victory was built on a superb defensive display from Koscielny, Mertesacker and Co. Provisional seven point lead at the top for Arsenal now.
90' + 6'
Turner, probably Cardiff's best player on the night, makes a VITAL interception on Walcott, who was primed to shoot from point blank range! And Lee Mason has seen enough!
90' + 5'
This has been a gritty performance from the Gunners, sprinkled with quality at the right moments. Their defence and midfield have been superb, and the attack has come through when required.
90' + 3'
90' + 3'
Immediately we see the benefit of Walcott in the Arsenal side. Odemwingie fails with a penalty appeal, and Ramsey is off storming down the middle. Ahead of him streaks Walcott, who is played in by the Welshman, and unselfishly returns the ball for Ramsey to smash into the same corner as Flamini minutes ago! Scintillating counter!
90' + 3'
RAMSEY ADDS ANOTHER!
90' + 1'
90' + 1'
We've got five minutes of added time to round this one off, but it's dead rubber as far as the result is concerned.
Off goes Ozil, decisive as ever, and on comes the speedy Englishman. The German is taking his sweet time to make his way to the sidelines!
Yellow CardAaron Ramsey
It's all Arsenal now as Cardiff have the wind knocked out of them. Walcott is finally looking like he's ready to come on.
Two assists for Ozil today, who has not been at his effervescent best, but has popped up with the killer contributions at the key moments. Still a match winner.
What a goal from the Frenchman, who came on to protect the back four but comes up with a stunner to ice the game! Ozil plays a perfectly, repeat PERFECTLY weighted pass right onto the penalty spot. Flamini timed his run superbly and smashes an emphatic finish into the top corner!
FLAMINI SEALS IT!
Whittingham's free kick is thrown into the mixer, but GIroud heads clear. It doesn't go as far as he would like though, and Cowie collects and lets one fly from 20 yards. It's not too far from Szczesny though, who gets down and holds onto the ball. Cardiff have shot a lot from long range, but have never really troubled Szczesny from there, which is a testament to the Gunners back four for taking away the clear cut chances.
The game winding down now as the pace slows, which will suit Arsenal just fine. They've got less then 10 minutes plus added time to see the points through.
Arteta gets his name in the book for clipping the legs of Cowie. A deserved booking, but a slight blot on the copybook of the Spaniard, who has been assured today.
Yellow CardMikel Arteta
Whittingham thumps a half volley from the top of the box, but it's right at Szczesny, who does not have to move to make the save. Good goalkeeping.
Noone nearly makes an instant impact with a lovely, incisive pass down the centre for Mutch to chase, but Szczesny is out in time excellently to smother the ball right on the edge of his area.
More subs coming up for both sides, as Kims' race seems to be done, with Noone set to come on. Meanwhile, Cazorla appears to be on his way off for Flamini in a clear defensive swap from Wenger.
Great touch from the Arsenal fans, who are singing the praises of former long-serving assistant manager Pat Rice, who was admitted to hospital with cancer earlier this week.
We may yet be seeing Walcott, as the forward continues his warmup on the sidelines. My guess would be Ozil to depart, as the German has, surprise surprise, faded from proceedings shortly after the restart. Something the playmaker still has to work on.
Wilshere picks the ball up and drives forward excellently on the counter. He continues his good work with a deft pass to Cazorla, who digs out a shot from 15 yards that's somewhat disappointingly right at Marshall.
The Gunners boss has options though; Walcott, Gnabry and Rosicky to speed things up in attack, or Vermaelen, Flamini and Monreal to steady the ship at the back. Choices in reserve he's often lacked at times this season due to injury.
The expected Cardiff change does happen, but no signs yet of a response in kind from Arsene Wenger.
Poor decision from Lee Mason, who awards a goalkick on a GIroud effort near the byeline, despite the ball clearly pinging off Caulker on its way out. Hardly the best decision for Giroud to shoot from there either, mind.
First change of the match about to happen, as Peter Odemwingie is set to come on, and the word is that Frazier Campbell is the man to be sacrificed.
Finally we have a chance to breathe. The game has settled into familiar patterns, as Arsenal and Cardiff trade relatively harmless bouts of possession. Nothing's shooting down the momentum of this home crowd though, who are making a magnificent racket in the stands.
Not a bad attempt from Giroud, who tries to curl the ball into the top shelf from outside the area, but it's spotted all the way by Marshall, who positions himself well to make the save.
Arsenal take the sting out of Cardiff's tail with a spell of possession deep in the opposition half. The Gunners are not really looking for the killer ball, rather, they aim to keep the ball as long as possible to strangle the momentum and get the home crowd to settle down.
Catherine lines up an attempt from all of 30 yards, and hits the target, but it's never going to trouble Szczesny, who smothers it well in the face of pressure from Campbell, who was angling to lap up any spills.
Terrific response from the some side after they were put under Arsenal's thumb to start the half. Whittingham sees a good shooting opportunity blocked with desperation by a sliding Arteta at the tip of the D.
Cardiff have their tails up, no question about that. They're flowing forward in attack now, finding spaces and channels that were not there previously. Arsenal's turn to weather the storm.
What a MAGNIFICENT save from Szczesny! Taylor whips one in from the left, Kim helps it onto the far post, where Campbell towers over the sheepish Gibbs to power a header to the opposite side, but the Polish stopper stretches to his right to push the ball away incredibly!
Complete dominance from Arsenal to start the second half, which will be worrying for Mackay. Ramsey comes within inches of weaving his way through again!
GIROUD! How are Arsenal not two up! Ramsey does supremely well to wriggle down the byeline, and he cuts the ball back to the Frenchman about eight yards out. But Turner is Johnny on the spot, making a crucial clearance off the line!
Here we go again!
The story of the show so far has been who the headline writers have been penning all week - Aaron Ramsey. The midfielder continued his insane goalscoring form with a superb header against his former club - which prompted a standing O from the entire stadium. It's given Arsenal the lad, and they're 45 minutes and change away from assuming a seven point lead at the top of the table. Stay tuned for the restart in just a bit.
45' + 5'
That's the end of an absorbing first half.
45' + 3'
The Gunners passing the ball around patiently, Cardiff sitting deep to nullify their threat. Both teams seem to have their minds set on the break.
45' + 1'
Into the first of four added minutes.
Ramsey turns on a dime and frees himself for a shot in the box, but he can't find his range! A good opening!
Giroud shows some insane strength to hold off his man and kill a Gibbs cross on is chest. He turns towards goal to shoot, but the angle, and space, just runs out on him, and the defence can block his shot at the near post.
Cazorla loses out to Kim after failing to connect with a loose pass from Sagna, but Wilshere saves the Gunners' bacon with a splendid tackle to stop the counter attack in its tracks.
Ozil and Cazorla are weaving in and out of pockets of space, but Cardiff are doing a tremendous job of keeping their wizardry confined to the area near the left corner of the field. Giroud looks a bit swarmed by red shirts at the back.
Catherine overruns a ball badly out on the right flank. He had Gibbs backpedaling, but his dreadful first touch allows the Arsenal left back to get rid without too much trouble.
Good spell this from Cardiff as Cowie just overplays a pass into the box which Koscielny gets rid of. We've got a real game on our hands.
The free kick is not defended well by Arsenal, and Whittingham's delivery is nearly turned in by Kim! The Gunners defence get away with it as the ball snakes past the post!
Yellow CardKieran Gibbs
Gibbs picks up the first caution of the day with a rash challenge on Catherine, a deserved caution as it was late, but without hate.
Now we will see what Cardiff are made of. They came back against Manchester United, twice, and they'll need to do it at least once today now.
Who else but the Arsenal Welshman! Ozil provides a ball into the box, but Ramsey still has some work to do. And he takes care of business, angling a superb header high into the goal. He pointedly refuses to celebrate against his former club, and there's a standing ovation for his goal - and not just from the Arsenal fans.
RAMSEY SCORES! ARSENAL LEAD!
Excellent from Mertesacker, to get a gangly toe in on Campbell, who was sprinting a mile a minute towards goal. Koscielny hacks away the loose ball, but a warning sign there as that chance was created by a sloppy Arteta pass.
Kim is ready to come back onto the pitch, but he'll have to wait for this free kick to commence...which it does, but comes to nothing.
Kim is in need of some assistance, coming off worse in a challenge with Sagna. To add insult to injury, he's pulled up for a free kick, and Arsenal have a decent shout to get the ball into the box.
Ozil does well to shimmy his way into a pocket of space at the top of the 18, and lays one off to Cazorla, who attacks the ball square. The Spaniard shoots on sight, but it's blocked with distinction by Medel.
The Gunners are trying a bit too hard to make something happen in the attacking third, and are losing the ball with their cutthroat tempo around the box. Cardiff are closing the gaps as soon as they appear.
Szczesny, normally one of the best in the league at taking command of the ball in the air, is put in a sticky situation by Whittingham's deep cross, as Turner charges in to challenge the Pole. He's beaten to the ball, but bailed out by the referee's whistle.
Wenger is losing his mind on the touchline at Giroud's decision, which he has every right to. The Frenchman really should have done better there, there was no signs that the officials were angling to call an offside. Cardiff with two let-offs, can they make Arsenal pay?
What an EXTRAORDINARY incident! Ozil flicked delicately into the path of Giroud, but he and the rest of the back four stop in anticipation of the offside flag...which does not appear! The Frenchman was onside, and clean through as well! Isn't the first rule in football to play to the whistle?
Cardiff are fighting Arsenal for every ball, and thus far, are winning most of those 50-50's. It's keenly contested out there, but signs that the Gunners midfield might be able to break through.
Campbell takes full advantage of Arsenal's temporary numerical advantage to streak down the right, and ping a cross onto the head of Mutch, who glances just wide of the far post! Mertesacker is right back on the pitch after that near miss.
Thomas Vermaelen is stripped and running, but Mertesacker is back on his feet. However, the physios have told Vermaelen to continue his warmup, as the jury's still out on Mertesacker's condition. We've seen a lot of focus on concussions thanks to the Hugo Lloris incident. Arsenal underwent a similar scenario when Flamini went down in a Premier League game, was patched up, and then soon departed with a concussion after failing to recover.
Trouble here for Mertesacker, who has taken a meaty whack to the chops after a mid-air collision with Bacary Sagna. He's down on the deck, and is immediately swarmed by the physios as the game is halted.
The match just beginning to settle into its foundations as Cardiff sit deep in their own half and look to soak up the opposition pressure.
A lovely, open start to this game. Cardiff are clearly angling to get Fraizer Campbell to use his pace behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, but so far, their intentions have been read every step of the way by the Gunners pair.
Wilshere scored in the opening seconds against Marseille midweek on his way to a double, and it's clear that he's brimming with confidence, coming within inches, inches to doing the same here in Wales. Arsenal fire a ferocious warning shot!
JACK WILSHERE! SO UNLUCKY! One touch takes him past Kim at the top of the 18 yard area, and with another touch, he unleashes a hellacious piledriver that cracks the frame of the goal!
Here we go! Cardiff get the ball rolling.
We're just about ready to go here, as the players are in place...
By stepping out onto the Cardiff City Stadium pitch today, Aaron Ramsey has pretty much come full circle as a footballer. He returns to his old stomping grounds, where he appeared first as a schoolboy, and then during a brief loan spell in 2011 in his road to recovery from the Ryan Shawcross incident. He's a different man today though, having banished the physical and mental demons from that injury to become - on form - one of the finest midfielders in the world.
Malky Mackay has a fully fit squad at his disposal to take on the league leaders, but he's another manager with little to tinker after an enterprising display in their last league outing, a 2-2 draw against Manchester United. Kim Bo-Kyung usurps Peter Odemwingie in the starting lineup, while Gary Medel is available to patrol the centre of the park after escaping retribution for slapping Marouane Fellaini.
Mesut Ozil's rather meek form in the last few weeks has become the new hot topic, but it should soon be getting better for the German international. Theo Walcott continues his race to 100 per cent fitness with a berth on the bench, while Lukas Podolski is closer and closer to doing the same after returning to training from his hamstring woes. Finally some runners to lap up all those delicious through balls.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And if it ain't sick, start it. Arsene Wenger sticks with the same merry band of brothers that took care of Southampton last weekend, with Kieran Gibbs returning to the XI after missing the midweek jaunt against Marseille due to illness.
CARDIFF SUBS: Lewis; Hudson, Cornelius, Odemwingie, Noone, Gunnarsson, Bellamy.
CARDIFF (4-3-3): Marshall; Taylor, Caulker, Turner, Theophile-Catherine; Medel, Kim, Mutch; Cowie, Whittingham, Campbell.
ARSENAL SUBS: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal, Rosicky, Flamini, Walcott, Gnabry.
ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Arteta, Ramsey; Wilshere, Ozil, Cazorla; Giroud.
Our first port of call is the XI's, so let's take a look.
Greetings one and all, and I'm glad to welcome you to live coverage of the Premier League clash between Cardiff City and Arsenal in the Welsh capital. I'm Keeghann Sinanan, your designated scribe for all the action.
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