Hat-trick hero Walcott leads rally at Reading


ARSENAL last night secured a place in the fifth round of the Capital One Cup after a near-farcical affair in which they recovered from conceding the first four goals of an entirely unpredictable 120 minutes away to Reading.

Forward Theo Walcott scored the crucial equalising goal deep into second-half stoppage time to ensure the additional 30 minutes in which a further four goals arrived where he completed his impressive hat-trick.

The England international has largely been a peripheral figure this season as the uncertainty surrounding his intention to extend his imminently expiring contract continues but if the reality is that he wishes for an extended run as a central striker then last night’s exploits would have done his chances no harm.

Laurent Koscielny’s 18th-minute own goal had followed Jasonā€ˆRoberts’ explosive 12th-minute opener and further goals from Mikele Leigertwood and Noel Hunt were to arrive before Walcott scored Arsenal’s ultimately crucial first on the stroke of half-time.

It was as woeful a 45-minute performance as even an understrength Arsenal team could possibly have produced so to eventually secure an equalising goal at any stage in the game, let alone with what would otherwise have been the last kick of the match, was highly impressive.

Throughout the second-half of normal time Arsenal played with a small but unlikely element of belief, as though their embarrassing three-goal deficit had given them the feeling that they had nothing to lose, and as the result of a far more convincing attacking performance, Olivier Giroud scored a 64th-minute header that made the highly unlikely suddenly appear somewhat possible.

With the match on the verge of entering injury time, Koscielny this time scored at the right end with a header to create further urgency and belief which Walcott capitalised upon in the sixth minute of what was supposed to be four minutes of added time to curl in the equaliser.

When Marouane Chamakh scored in the 103rd minute to put the away side in front for the first time, the match finally appeared over, but Pavel Pogrebnyak equalised with four minutes remaining to spark further goals from Walcott and then Chamakh at the match’s conclusion.