|Hleb shows some fancy footwork before tucking away number three [EPA]|
Arsenal have extended their unbeaten run to 27 matches by beating Reading 3-1 and in doing so climbed back to the top of the English Premiership.
Goals by Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Adebayor and Aleksander Hleb lifted the North London side to 30 points from 12 games, ahead of their rivals Manchester United, who have the same number of points from 13 matches.
Reading frustrated Arsenal for the first 40 minutes on Monday night before a typical flowing, passing move opened up the home side.
Adebayor put through Hleb who crossed for Frenchman Flamini to slot home via a deflection.
Arsenal then made all but sure of the points just seven minutes into the second half after a another fine move saw Adebayor hit a lovely curling finish from the edge of the penalty area.
The strike broke the Togolese striker’s eight game goal drought and chalked up Arsenal’s 1,000th goal in the Premiership.
Hleb added the third after twisting past the keeper and lashing home when it appeared he might lose control of the ball.
“I felt we were in control,” Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said.
“We showed we had the nerve to deal with that and we are heading the league, in charge and just want to stay in control.”
Arsenal,who were last beaten in any competition on April 7, could easily have won by a bigger margin on a chilly night at the Madejski Stadium.
‘Team to beat’
Adebayor hit the post in the third minute and the same player had a goal harshly ruled out for offside in the second half.
Nicky Shorey took advantage of rare confusion in the Arsenal defence to grab a consolation for Reading three minutes from time.
His manager, Steve Coppell, believes Arsenal will be the team to beat for champions Manchester United fourth-placed Chelsea and fifth-placed Liverpool.
“The first goal just before half-time was critical because up until that point they’d had a lot of possession without creating too much,” said Coppell, whose side had won three home Premiership matches on the trot.
“There were just a few signs they were starting to get frustrated.
“One-nil down at half-time was not the end of the world but they have that extra bit of quality and once they got their noses in front the confidence came flooding back and we buckled under the pressure.
“They have some fantastic players and will be the team to beat right to the very end of the season.”