Gunners ease past Dons to reach fourth round of Carabao Cup
AFC Wimbledon 0
An early Alexandre Lacazette penalty and strikes from Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah saw Arsenal safely through to round four of the Carabao Cup this evening.
Lacazette gave the Gunners the lead on 11 minutes, but they were forced to wait until 13 minutes from time before scoring again – before quickly adding a sublime third from Smith-Rowe.
The home side were on the front foot early, with Nketiah making most of the running, including when he unleashed a decent effort from just outside the box which was blocked by the Wimbledon defence.
Soon after Gabriel Martinelli was brought down inside the box after being played in by a delightful Nketiah through ball - Lacazette sending Dons goalkeeper Nik Tzanev the wrong way from the spot.
Wimbledon’s first half-chance came on 20 minutes. Following a long throw from the right, a literal throw back to Vinnie Jones and the Crazy Gang days, the ball fell to Alex Woodyard, whose awkward effort from the edge of the box fell wide.
At the other end Martinelli was giving Nesta Guinness-Walker a torrid time at left-back, beating him on several occasions in the first half before producing a number of threatening crosses into the box.
And Thomas Partey was beginning to pull the strings in midfield, playing a number of key passes from which Arsenal were unable to double their advantage - most notably when Albert Sambi Lokonga fired high and wide when well placed just outside the box.
Luke McCormick was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card following a nasty challenge on Martinelli shortly afterwards – the Brazilian far too quick for the Wimbledon man.
The Gunners should have doubled their lead 10 minutes before the break. Martinelli this time found his way into the box but wanted to do too much by attempting to take the ball round Tzanev. The angle was too tight, and although the ball broke to Cedric Soares, his cross-shot was eventually cleared by the Dons backline.
Tzanev then had to fumble the ball away after at attempted clearance from a corner spooned high into the Emirates night sky and came down again almost on his goal line. But Wimbledon, cheered on by an army of travelling fans behind the Clock End goal, kept the score down to 1-0 at the break.
Although the Dons started with a bit more energy in the second half, it was a similar story to the first, with Arsenal pulling the strings.
Partey forced Tzanev into a flying save on the hour, before departing for Smith-Rowe – Mikel Arteta no doubt with one eye on Sunday’s north London derby against Spurs.
But while it remained 1-0 Wimbledon always had half a chance – the South Londoners behind Bernd Leno’s goal raising the decibel level as Aaron Pressley forced a clearance from Soares.
At the other end Tzanev was earning his money – again keeping his side in the tie with a brilliant save – this time from an Nketiah header from close range.
But the Gunners finally made the game safe on 77 minutes, substitute Emile Smith-Rowe tapping home from close range after being set-up by Lacazette.
Then just three minutes later Nketiah put the icing on the cake with a sublime flick through his own legs and past Tzanev for 3-0.
Bukayo Saka was given a rapturous reception when he made a late cameo as a substitute and he had two great chances to score, including one effort superbly stopped by Tzanev.
But 3-0 it remained for Arsenal, a nice warm-up for the big one on Sunday.
Arsenal: Leno, Partey (Smith-Rowe, 60), Lacazette, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Soares, Tavares, Mari, Lokonga, Nketiah (Balogun, 83), Martinelli (Saka, 75)
Wimbledon: Tzanev, Lawrence, Woodyard, Nightingale, Hartigan, Palmer (Pressley, 54), Assal, Rudoni (Chislett, 68), Guinness-Walker, McCormick (Mebude, 60), Heneghan
Referee: Jarred Gillett