Apr 20, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
Arsenal kept their stranglehold on the final Champions League spot as they easily dispatched Hull City 3-0 in a preview of the FA Cup final.
Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil both returned to the starting lineup following long injury spells, and they were both at the forefront of the Gunners attack that looked rejuvenated with the return of its stars.
Ramsey opened the scoring for the Gunners and Lukas Podolski poached a double as Arsenal cruised to all three points.
The opening half-chances fell to Hull City, who were determined in the midfield and gave Nikica Jelavic an opportunity on 15 minutes but he could only earn a corner.
The home side were widely the better side in the opening half, holding just 38% of possession but still outshooting Arsenal during the opening 45 by three.
However, it was Arsenal who had all the finishing quality, as Ramsey and Podolski picked up the pair of first-half goals for the visitors.
Ramsey, in his first start since Boxing Day in late December, was brilliant in the midfield. On the half hour mark, Ozil slammed on the brakes and cut back to Santi Cazorla, who slotted a streaking Ramsey through for an easy finish and a 1-0 lead.
Jake Livermore came down the other end just minutes later and rattled the post of Wojciech Szczesny, but couldn’t find the finish. Ahmed Elmohamady then headed just over on the ensuing corner, and Hull’s best chance of the first half evaporated.
Arsenal would make them pay just before halftime, although the referee was in the spotlight as well. Nikica Jelavic broke towards the Arsenal box, and went down under pressure from Mikel Arteta, and with contact at a minimum referee Jon Moss let play continue.
With the ball and the push, Arsenal put on a clinical counter attack, with a ball into the box from Olivier Giroud found that Ramsey. He likely looked to shoot himself on the volley, but his first touch was heavy. Luckily, it fell to Podolski who took the volley himself and finished powerfully for a 2-0 Gunner lead.
After the break, Arsenal wasted no time effectively putting the game away with a third. With the ball headed for the end line, Cazorla expertly cut back across the box and found a waiting Ramsey, who fired at goal. Harper made a kick save but it came right back to Podolski who again finished well for the three-goal lead.
Hull began to fade, even with strikers Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long on the pitch. They will not be available for the looming cup final between these two clubs, as they are both cup-tied to their former clubs. Neither of the pair made it the full 90 minutes anyways, with Long coming off at halftime and Jelavic replaced with 20 minutes to go.
Arsenal shut up shop, and picked up a vital three points down the stretch of the season. They temporarily go four atop Everton in the Premier League standings, with the Toffees set to play at 11:10ET against Manchester United.
The Gunners still control their own destiny in the fight for the fourth spot as they look for their 18th straight season in the Champions League. Hull City, meanwhile, are
Hull City – Harper; Rosenior, Elmohamady, Davies, Chester; Huddlestone, Livermore, Meyler, Boyd (Koren 84′); Jelavic (Quinn 70′), Long (Fryatt 45′).
Arsenal – Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil (Flamini 61′); Podolski (Sanogo 84′), Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain 74′).
Goals: Ramsey 31′; Podolski 45′, 54′
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