Reading 2-5 Arsenal
Reading 2 (Le Fondre 65, Kebe 69)
Arsenal 5 (Podolski 15, Cazorla 33, 35, 60, Walcott 81)
The Royals were swept away by an extremely classy Arsenal performance at Madejski Stadium on Monday night.
The visitors has a three goal lead at the break thanks to Lukas Podolski's opener and a brace from the irrepressible Santi Cazorla.
The midfield maestro bagged his hat-trick after the break, tapping home a well worked team move - before the home side mounted a mini comeback through substitute Adam Le Fondre and the returning Jimmy Kebe.
However any hopes of a repeat of that remarkable Capital One Cup clash two months ago were dashed as Theo Walcott latched onto Cazorla's pass before rolling past Federici.
It was a hard pill to swallow for Brian McDermott's men, who now face an away trip to Champions Manchester City at the weekend.
Reading FC: Federici; Cummings, Shorey, Gorkss, Mariappa; Leigertwood, Tabb, Kebe (McCleary 73), McAnuff; Hunt, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Taylor, Gunter, Harte, Pearce
Booked: McAnuff (foul 39)
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Vermaelen; Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla (Coquelin 82), Chamberlain (Ramsey 74), Podolski, Walcott (Giroud 85)
Subs: Mannone, Koscielny, Rosicky, Gervinho
Attendance: 24,125 (2067)
The pace of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stood out immediately when teamsheets were handed out, and that was put into practice in the opening seconds as the latter mounted a lightning fast counter attack, which resulted in Adam Federici getting down low to deny a low stinging shot.
Reading responded in the eight minute, some neat interchange between Pogrebnyak and Cummings allowed the Russian forward to scuttle into the box, where a square ball to Jobi McAnuff saw a low shot well blocked.
The Royals grew in confidence Noel Hunt met Nicky Shorey’s finely flighted corner kick in the 12th minute, but could only flick a header over the bar from a narrow angle.
However, it was the Gunners whoul would take the lead just moments later. Superb work down the left flank by Kieran Gibbs saw the full back fizz a deadly cross into the middle of the box – where German international Lukas Podolski controlled well before flicking past Federici.
The lively Santi Cazorla made efforts to double that lead, twisting and turning 25 yards from goal before crashing the ball inches past Federici’s post.
Federici again had to be alert in the 20th minute, as Walcott broke the offside trap to go one-on-one with the Australian stopper, only to be denied by a smart save from Reading’s number one.
‘Fedders’ was on superb form – acrobatically tipping away Gibbs’ half volley after a slick move instigated by England international Jack Wilshire.
Brian McDermott’s men were still having their moments. Pogrebnyak broke the offside trap down the left, and only the flailing boot of Thomas Vermaelen denied Hunt a tap in.
But the vistors’ class just kept on showing. Podolski popped up on the left to turn creator – floating in a cross to the centre of the area, which allowed Santi Cazorla to arrive late and send home a stooping header.
If that was clever football, Arsenal’s third was simply fantastic. A long passage of passes, tricks and flicks resulted in a nod back to Cazorla, who was on hand once more to spin and tuck past Federici.
Chamberlain was next to present the Royals’ stopper with a problem, but he was equal to it on this occasion – palming the number 15’s header away from danger.
Brian McDermott made efforts to claw his side back into the game, switching to a 4-3-3 formation after the break with Kebe and Hunt flanking Pogrebnyak in the centre.
The Gunners created the first chance of the half however, as Chamberlain’s low effort from the right of the six-yard box was just hooked off the line by Mariapaa.
Wenger’s front three were constantly interchanging, as Walcott popped up centrally 12 minutes into the half, firing narrowly of goal from the edge of the box.
But it was the magician Cazorla who would steal the show, rounding off his hat-trick with half an hour still to play.
It was another swift move. Chamberlain found Wilshire, who knocked out wide to Podolski – and the forward’s cutback was easily bundled home by the diminutive Spaniard.
It was a substitute who would peg one back for the home side. Jay Tabb intercepted a stray pass and took good advantage of the space in front of him, feeding Adam Le Fondre – who cooly rounded Szcezesny before slotting home.
The fightback didn’t stop there – another substitute having a tangible effect. Robson-Kanu danced across the centre of the box before sliding in Kebe, who did well to slot past Szeczesny.
The home fans were alive once more, though were almost silenced seconds later as Cazorla attempted to round off another quick breakaway, only to be denied a fourth by the heroics of Federici.
A fifth was imminent though – Walcott it was who got it, feeding off the unstoppable Cazorla before cutting inside and rolling home to ease any jangling Gunners nerves.
Wenger's men didn't stop bombing forward until the final whistle, but there were to be no more goals - as Reading's place at the foot of the table was confirmed.