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Match report: Arsenal 3, Brentford 1

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A bit trickier than the Gunners would have liked, but a win is a win.

Arsenal v Brentford - Carabao Cup Third Round Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

After a scare in the second half, Arsenal beat Brentford FC 3-1 and are moving on to the next round of the Carabao Cup.

The first half was a comfortable one for Arsenal, and the Gunners got on the scoresheet first, after just four minutes of play, via set-piece. On a short corner, Matteo Guendouzi’s cross found Danny Welbeck, who headed the ball neatly past Brentford keeper Luke Daniels.

Brentford’s first real threat came at about the fifteen-minute mark, when Ollie Watkins received a lofted ball in the Arsenal box. But Watkins’s shot was deflected, and the resulting Bees corner came to nothing.

Arsenal then had a few chances to get a second goal, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan overcomplicated things with the ball at his feet and couldn’t get a good shot off, and Mike Dean (he of the questionable Arsenal refereeing history) declined to award the Gunners a penalty after Iwobi was knocked over in the box. On the other end of the pitch, Bernd Leno broke up a Brentford counterattack with some quick thinking and a run of forty yards or so.

The first booking of the game went to Stephan Lichtsteiner, who stiff-armed a Brentford winger as he tried to keep possession of the ball. If he were a wide receiver, that would have been textbook, but instead it got him a yellow card.

Watkins had another good chance for Brentford at about the 35th minute, but Rob Holding stayed with him and put him off his shot, deflecting it high over the goal. Again, the Bees’ corner came to nothing.

Two minutes later, Arsenal doubled their lead with a beautiful team goal—Mkhitaryan to Iwobi to Nacho Monreal to Welbeck, who shot calmly under Daniels this time around.

The first half ended with Arsenal up two goals to nil, and the Gunners nearly got a third within the opening five minutes of the second half—Lichtsteiner beat the offside trap with a floating lob of a pass, but Brentford keeper Daniels came off of his line and grabbed the ball before Mkhitaryan could control it and shoot. Iwobi and Emile Smith Rowe had chances as well, but couldn’t put their shots on target.

Although Arsenal still had the vast majority of possession, Leno finally got a bit of work to do as the game got up to speed again. Our new keeper dove to deflect one shot, and then caught a soft second one to keep the Bees scoreless. But there wasn’t a lot that he could do to save Brentford’s first goal. The Bees won a free kick just a few yards outside of Arsenal’s box after a silly foul from Guendouzi, and Alan Judge’s shot fizzed around and into the top right corner of the goal. Leno’s view was blocked by the wall, and he couldn’t move in time to get to the ball.

The goal gave Brentford hope and energy, and Arsenal spent the next few minutes absorbing pressure from the Bees back in their own half of the pitch. Unai Emery, evidently wanting to get back to the two-goal lead from earlier, responded by replacing Smith Rowe with Alexandre Lacazette. It was certainly a substitution that Emery hadn’t wanted to make—in an ideal world, Arsenal would have rested Lacazette for the weekend’s Premier League match—but Brentford’s goal had changed the game dramatically. Although the Gunners could still slice through Brentford’s defense almost at will, the Bees saw a lot more of the ball after the one-hour mark, and in the interest of defense, Emery used his second substitution to bring on Lucas Torreira.

The last twenty minutes were more nerve-wracking than Arsenal had probably expected against a Championship side, and with seven minutes of regular time to go, Aaron Ramsey replaced Mohamed Elneny in the midfield, bringing the Gunners even closer to a typical league match lineup. Lacazette and Ramsey played well together last season, and the two of them nearly restored Arsenal’s two-goal lead after exchanging a few passes—Lacazette’s shot sailed just wide.

That was Lacazette’s third chance to score, but he made no mistakes on his fourth, three minutes into stoppage time. After getting a lofted ball, he found a gap in Brentford’s back line and skipped the ball past Daniels into the bottom left corner.

The final whistle blew a minute later, and Arsenal could finally relax. The Gunners move on to the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, and they’ll find out who their opponents will be during the draw this Saturday. Their next match is a Premier League game against Watford on the same day.