Home » FA Cup, Latest » FA Cup replay Match Report: Leeds 1 Arsenal 3

As this pulsating FA Cup tie drew to a close, as Arsenal finally withstood the magnificent resistance of Simon Grayson’s men, Elland Road reverberated to a chorus of “we’re Leeds and we’re proud of it”.

Whatever the disappointment of bowing out of the Cup, particularly after Bradley Johnson’s stunning strike had made it 2-1, a performance full of belief should give Leeds United hope for the future.

They had refused to surrender when Samir Nasri and Bacary Sagna guided Arsenal into a seemingly untouchable lead. They had revelled in the goal shortly before half-time from Johnson, a sweet moment for the midfielder having been released by Arsenal as a teenager.

But then came Robin van Persie, heading in Nicklas Bendtner’s excellent cross. Yet Leeds still refused to go quietly. Arsenal now play Huddersfield Town at the Emirates, doubtless stirring plenty of Herbert Chapman retrospectives, while Leeds resume their promotion campaign, trying to ensure they face Nasri and his gilded ilk on a regular basis.

Leeds’ game-plan had been to press but Arsenal simply played around them, gliding into the lead within six minutes. Until Johnson’s sensational response, Nasri ran the first-half show, immediately showing his class when running through on goal.

Nasri captained the visiting side, acquiring the armband with Cesc Fabregas starting on the bench, and the Frenchman certainly led by example.

The build-up to Nasri’s 14th goal of the season was typically Arsenal, the ball swept to receptive feet, starting with Kieran Gibbs, then Andrei Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh, who worked the ball to Nasri. He floated through, waiting for Kaspar Schmeichel to commit himself before rolling it past the keeper and in: 0-1.

As Arsenal celebrated, Leeds fans responded by goading the away contingent. “You couldn’t sell all your tickets”, chanted the Leeds fans, an allegation Arsenal rejected, pointing out they accounted for all their 3,000 allocation.

Any gaps at Elland Road were in Leeds’ defence. After Sagna was tugged back, Nasri whipped over a free-kick that Chamakh met with a strong, downward header, drawing a magnificent right-handed save from the Leeds keeper. Chamakh v Schmeichel was not Pele v Banks but it wasn’t far away.

The atmosphere was electric. Leeds fans became particularly enervated when Arshavin went to ground far too easily, prompting chants of “are you Walcott in disguise?”.

Then they began twirling white scarves above their heads, generating a marvellous sight to accompany the unebbing noise.

Back came Arsenal, Arshavin twice going close. Then Sagna crossed low and hard towards the stretching Bendtner, who failed to turn the ball in. “That’s why you’re 52,” chorused the Leeds supporters.

Arsenal’s fans responded, taunting the club of Lorimer, Hunter and Gray with chants of “You’re not famous any more”. Leeds fans sang of better days, of Dominic Matteo scoring in the San Siro.

Arsenal’s control was soon confirmed with a second goal. Sagna began and finished the move, wining the ball in midfield and inviting Bendtner, Arsenal’s No 52, to charge through the middle. Chamakh took over as Bendtner continued his run. Having received the ball back, Bendtner over-ran it, giving Andy O’Brien a chance to clear.

Unfortunately for Leeds, the ball flew only as far as Sagna. Steaming in at pace, Sagna arrived like a latter-day Carlos Alberto, belting the ball past Schmeichel: 0-2.

It seemed all over. The presses prepared to roll on the obituaries of Leeds’ Cup fortunes for another year. Arsenal looked so in control. The ball seemed to belong to Nasri. But Grayson’s passion-players, marvellously, had other ideas.

Willed on by their fans, who certainly never accepted Arsenal’s superiority, Leeds embarked on what appeared a mission impossible. They had to make acquaintance of the ball first.

Howson, a local lad responding to the adrenaline shots pumped from the terraces, never stopped believing. Leeds captain found possession and drove through midfield, narrowly avoiding a high-speed lunge from Denilson.

Then Howson laid the ball off to his accomplice in central midfield, Johnson, whose response was majestic, the ball drilled past a startled Wojciech Szczesny from fully 30 yards: 1-2.

Game on? Elland Road believed. Even when Arsenal began pouring forward again after the break, when Schmeichel saved from Alex Song, Leeds fans still believed.

Even when Robert Snodgrass somehow got back to nick the ball away from the threatening Arshavin, Leeds fans still believed they could overturn this.

Max Gradel and Snodgrass began making good ground down the flanks. Sanchez Watt was more of a menace in the hole behind Billy Paynter. But how they missed Luciano Becchio, who failed a fitness test on his back before kick-off.

Midway through the second half, Grayson shook up his attack, withdrawing Paynter and sending on Davide Somma, used too sparingly by the manager for some supporters’ tastes. Sensing the growing threat in the white shirts, Wenger turned to Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie. “Who needs Cesc Fabregas? We’ve got Rob Snodgrass” came the instant response from the Leeds fans.

Even with Fabregas now involved and Nasri still influential, Arsenal could never relax. Not with Howson in midfield. Not with Snodgrass looking to make bustling little breaks. But then Fabregas got on the ball, sending Bendtner down the right and the Dane really delivered, hoisting a superb cross to the far-post. There was Van Persie, rising high, meeting the ball perfectly, sending it speeding back past Schmeichel and in. It was the type of headed finish that Frank Stapleton or Alan Smith would have been proud of.

Signs of Arsenal’s technical class continued to illuminate the night, a fine pass from Fabregas releasing Nasri until Leeds regrouped. With seven minutes remaining, Nasri was taken off, departing to sporting applause from more than a few Leeds fans.

Still their team never gave up. Echoing his father, Schmeichel went up for a late corner, although failed to repeat his feat and score. It was soon all over bar the chants about Leeds.

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