Leeds United were once again doing the FA Cup business against
top class opposition in January 2011, after success in 2010 against
Manchester United and Tottenham.
They pulled off a stunning draw at the
Emirates against Arsenal, with the Londoners requiring a late
penalty to snatch a draw, and it promised to be a stern test for
the Gunners in the Elland Road replay.
Arsenal could have won the first game at the death, but for Kasper
Schmeichel's reflexes in goal, particularly in tipping away Denilson's
drive. "I wasn't even sure it was going in at the time," Schmeichel
shrugged. "It's what I'm there to do.
"With the players we've got we should be confident against anybody,
especially at Elland Road," added the United keeper. "The atmosphere
we can create there is very intimidating… Arsenal will be used
to playing in that sort of atmosphere but we're confident. Leeds
fans are always magnificent. They're unbelievable.
"It was a great performance, but we were always confident we
could do that. We got to half time and we said there are opportunities
here for us. Luciano had one cleared and we always had a chance
of nicking a goal.
"You can't emphasise how huge it is in terms of the amount of
possession they have. They always seemed to have a spare man everywhere.
It was a fantastic team performance by us, everyone worked so
hard, and we felt a bit hard done by not to come away with the
"It shows we're a good team with good spirit. We worked hard
for each other and that's the basis of a good team. If you can't
get up for these games you should not be playing.
"With the players we've got, I think we should be confident against
anybody, especially at Elland Road. The atmosphere we can create
there is very intimidating. Elland Road is a great place, an amazing
place to play. The fans make it special."
United manager Simon Grayson relished the platform the replay
gave his team and welcomed the revenue from the extra, televised
game. He said, "Hopefully it will help us. If we have a few more
pounds and pennies to spend then I can go and get a couple more
players. I'm sure the chairman is sat in his apartment now, rubbing
Unlike 2010, United had no loss of form following their Cup exploits,
and followed up their Emirates
adventure with a crushing 4-0 defeat of Scunthorpe in the Championship.
Grayson: "I said beforehand that the most important game out
of Arsenal and Scunthorpe was Scunthorpe. That's still the case.
It's our bread and butter.
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"We had our appetite whetted last year when we played Manchester
United, Tottenham and Liverpool, Arsenal's
been another great experience for us but, as I've said over and
over again, more important than that is Scunthorpe. I'd have swapped
any result against Arsenal for three points against Scunthorpe
and we've achieved part one of what we needed to do this week.
I want a result on Saturday as well.
"It's to the players' credit that they haven't taken their eye
off the ball since the draw was made. They were warned that if
they concentrated on the Arsenal game then they wouldn't play
in it, they'd be sat in the stands. But they've got a good attitude
and a calmness about them, and that was probably reflected in
how we played against Arsenal.
"Some people felt that the Cup was a hindrance to us last season,
but there were many other contributing factors in the slight dip
we had. I want the players to look at the experience of playing
Arsenal as an example of what we can do in the future."
Grayson was forced to make two changes to the team that beat
Scunthorpe, with Ben Parker replacing the ineligible George McCartney
at left-back and Billy Paynter given his second start at Elland
Road as stand in for Luciano Becchio, out injured.
For the Gunners, Bacary Sagna and Samir Nasri returned, and both
enjoyed good evenings.
United kicked off and enjoyed the first thrust of the game. Recovering
possession following an Arsenal throw on the left, Max Gradel
burst through but pulled his shot wide of the Gunners' goal.
The first four minutes were spent in untidy and frenetic midfield
jostling, with United chasing down their opponents and Arsenal
trying to settle into their smooth passing game. At the end of
the fifth minute, the first decent bit of football saw the Gunners
carve through Leeds' soft centre to open the scoring.
Centre-back Koscielny intercepted a United thrust and slipped
the ball to Gibbs, who fed low down the middle for Chamakh. The
striker laid it back to Arshavin who curved a delightful ball
through for the advancing Nasri to take in his stride. The Frenchman
slid inside Bradley Johnson, slipped a poor challenge from Alex
Bruce and calmly clipped a shot past goalkeeper
Schmeichel. As the ITV commentary gushed, "That's the difference,
Samir Nasri with a touch of class…"
The lead secured, Arsenal dropped into an assured period of possession
football that kept United at safe arm's length, struggling to
get a look in.
Chamakh made space from Johnson, his marker, to take a free header
from a ninth minute corner but could only send his attempt soaring
into the Leeds crowd, still struggling to come to terms with being
behind to such an early goal.
When Sagna threatened to surge past Ben Parker down the right
in the tenth minute, the United full-back pulled him down to concede
a free kick in a dangerous position. Chamakh rose to send a fearsome
header goalwards from the dead ball but Schmeichel showed outstanding
reflexes to get down and swipe the ball away before safely gathering
a tame follow up.
Two minutes later, Paul Connolly looked a little fortunate when
he dispossessed Arshavin on the edge of the Leeds box, referee
Mike Dean waving away Arsenal appeals. Alex Song's delightful
through ball had caught Connolly napping as the Russian slipped
Arshavin did get a favourable decision a minute later when he
was fouled by Andy O'Brien as he turned away from the defender.
Arsenal threatened to make something of the free kick, but it
ended with the ball in Schmeichel's grasp.
After 17 minutes, United had a rare break down to Arsenal's end
when Gradel and Watt engineered a move down the left but the opportunity
fizzled out when Gradel's cross sailed beyond Paynter in the area.
A thrust forward by Sagna and Chamakh saw a dangerous ball fly
across the face of Schmeichel's goal but it seemed to go through
Arshavin's legs in the goal area when he looked set to bury it.
It was a terrible miss.
The Russian almost made amends in the 22nd minute after turning
away from Johnson down the right channel. He sent a low shot swerving
goalwards which Schmeichel had to dive to turn around the foot
of his left hand upright.
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Right-back Sagna had been pushing forward at every opportunity,
eager to get into the action and when a long diagonal ball out
of the Arsenal half from Koscielny found him beyond the Leeds
defence he threw a tempting ball across the six-yard box, but
Bendtner was found wanting and the cross sailed on for a United
throw on the opposite flank.
A loose header back to his keeper by Arshavin on the half hour
almost presented Gradel with a golden opportunity but goalkeeper
Szczesny was alert to the danger and beat the winger to the ball.
After 31 minutes, there was another Leeds threat when Jonny Howson
took a quick free kick down the right. The ball reached Snodgrass
and he turned inside to fire in a swerving drive from the corner
of the Arsenal area but it curled straight into the arms of Szczesny.
Howson and Snodgrass had started to come more into the midfield
picture, with Gradel and Watt occasionally hinting that they might
manufacture an opening, but lone striker Paynter was just not
mobile enough to provide a genuine goal
threat. United's game plan required advancing midfielders to come
up quickly in support of Paynter, but they were preoccupied with
stemming the Arsenal threat.
The Gunners were holding the ball confidently at the back with
some smooth passing across their rearguard. In one such move,
Song took possession from Djourou and played it up to Chamakh
at halfway. He held it up well but played a loose ball out to
the left which Connolly took easily and fed back to Schmeichel.
The keeper's long ball forward saw Sagna win from Paynter and
feed to Bentdner on his right. As the forward came inside with
the ball, Sagna overlapped down the flank. Bendtner played the
one-two with Nasri as he reached the area, but was loose with
his control at the end, allowing O'Brien to intercept the final
ball. His hurried clearance ran out to Sagna who had continued
to follow up. He was in space on the right, touched it on into
the area to set himself and then thundered the ball across Schmeichel
and in at the far post. The keeper got his hands to the shot but
could only palm it on into the roof of the net.
2-0 with 35 minutes gone. It was a spectacular goal.
That quite possibly should have been that with the Gunners looking
in absolute control, but United came back with an even more splendid
strike two minutes later.
After withstanding some Arsenal pressure, Connolly fed Snodgrass
on the right. He was covered by Gibbs but drew a foul from Song
as he made to run through. The Scot's long free kick was headed
away by Arsenal from the edge of their area. It fell to Sanchez
Watt who evaded a challenge and fed short right to Howson. As
Arsenal came out, Howson
turned and sent the ball out onto the edge of the area for Snodgrass
to attempt to go round Arshavin and Gibbs. He failed at the first
attempt, but then picked the ball up off Arshavin. There were
protests from Arsenal that the Scot had fouled Arshavin, but referee
Mike Dean waved play on.
Snodgrass fed inside to Gradel, who tricked his way past his
man and crossed to the middle of the area. The ball was partially
cleared by Koscielny but fell to Howson thirty yards from goal.
He took it well and teed up Johnson, waiting to his left. The
ball was perfect for the powerful midfielder to meet first time
and hammer unerringly into the top right hand corner of the net,
giving the keeper no chance. It was a sensational goal, later
voted Leeds' best of the season.
That lifted the flagging spirits of both crowd and players and
had them believing once again. Within a minute Gradel had another
chance down the middle when Arsenal gave the ball away but his
first time strike was wayward and sailed harmlessly into the crowd
when he should have done far better with the goal at his mercy.
The goal had given an extra yard to United's stride and for a
period they hustled their top flight opponents back onto the defensive
as they pushed Gradel up to partner Paynter in attack.
United finished the half with the momentum, though Arsenal were
determined not to panic, sticking resolutely to their beautiful
back to top
Leeds were indebted to the exceptional Schmeichel for keeping
them in the game when he stood tall to parry away Alex Song's
near post drive 23 seconds into the second half, and then the
keeper did well to hold on to a Nasri free kick from 30 yards.
Down at the other end, Johnson, encouraged by his first half
wonder strike, tried another drive from distance but this time
his hurried effort was sliced well wide.
When Gradel made ground to the left byline, he was confronted
by Bendtner, and managed to trick his way past him, but his cross
to Paynter at the far post was too heavy and ran out for a throw
on the other flank.
In the 54th minute, Robert Snodgrass came racing back into his
own area to produce a goal-saving tackle just as Arshavin was
about to pull the trigger after a neat piece of Arsenal build
up play had brought the Russian an opportunity.
Leeds came back with a spirited passing move inspired by Snodgrass
and Arsenal were happy to concede a corner as Watt threatened
to break through.
Twice in the space of a couple of minutes, Arshavin fluffed decent
opportunities of scoring and was greeted with derisory jeering
from the Elland Road crowd.
Simon Grayson's side continued to enjoy half chances as they
tried to haul themselves
level, Billy Paynter narrowly failing to connect with a Max Gradel
cross from the right.
When Andy O'Brien sustained a hamstring injury in the 66th minute,
he was replaced by Leigh Bromby, and two minutes later Davide
Somma came on for Billy Paynter. Within seconds the South African
got on the end of a Snodgrass centre but only with an inadvertent
knee and the ball skewed badly wide with the goal at his mercy.
After 70 minutes, Arsenal made their own double change, bringing
on Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie for Arshavin and Chamakh
in an attempt to end United's resistance. The changes had the
desired effect and with 14 minutes remaining, Arsenal finally
put the tie out of United's reach when they scored their third
Fabregas had already demonstrated urgency and class, firing a
free kick narrowly wide with Schmeichel desperately diving. Now
the Arsenal skipper got the ball 35 yards out and fed Bendtner
in the clear on the right flank. He slung a looping cross over
to the far post where Van Persie was given far too much room by
Bromby. The Dutchman rose to meet the centre perfectly and nodded
back across Schmeichel and into the inviting net. It was a goal
of great simplicity, the antithesis of the Gunners' normal, calculating
Lloyd Sam came on for Sanchez Watt in the 79th minute and Gael
Clichy replaced Nasri four minutes later as the two managers played
their final cards.
If Arsene Wenger hoped that Van Persie's goal might enable the
Gunners to cruise to a comfortable win, he was to be disappointed
as Leeds refused to go quietly. The final minutes of the game
were frenetic with Sam, Gradel, Howson and Snodgrass trying valiantly
to find a way through and there was some frustrated snapping from
the Leeds midfield as Arsenal attempted to play down the clock
with possession football. Snodgrass, Johnson and Howson were given
yellow cards in the final five minutes as the irritation showed.
Goalkeeper Schmeichel brought back memories of his famous father
in the closing seconds as he rose in the Arsenal area, attempting
vainly to score from a corner.
It was a step too far in the end, but United had once more proven
the potential of a club on an upward ascent, aching to get back
to the Premier League, where they could confront Nasri, Van Persie
and company on a regular basis.
Henry Winter in the Telegraph: "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 hope for the future. They stood toe to toe with a real Premier
League heavyweight, absorbed painful combinations and punches,
and kept coming back for more.
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"They refused to surrender when Samir Nasri, again outstanding,
and Bacary Sagna, giving one of his finest displays for Arsenal,
drove Arsenal into a seemingly untouchable lead. They revelled
in the thunderbolt unleashed before half time by Johnson, a sweet
moment for the Hackney-born midfielder having been released by
Arsenal as a teenager.
"Arsenal were worth their win because of the quality of their
football, particularly in the first half, much of it emanating
from Nasri, who was applauded from the field by Leeds fans.
"For the 3,000 Arsenal supporters who made the journey north,
there were the encouraging signs of Wojciech Szczesny's promise
in goal, of Bendtner putting in an increasingly influential shift
on the right and a thrilling reminder of the class of Nasri, who
took his season's tally to 14.
"On the debit side for Arsenal was another off colour contribution
by Andrey Arshavin, whose shooting was wayward at best. If anyone
in the Beeston area of south Leeds discovers a stray ball nestling
in the shrubbery of
their back-garden, please return to A Arshavin, c/o Arsenal FC,
The Emirates, London.
"Watching a Premier League star sending a shot spiralling out
of the ground triggered much mirth amongst the locals, and surely
some belief. For all the hype of the Premier League, even such
luminaries as Arshavin can struggle for form, although Arsenal
should be worried about the length of the Russian's poor run.
"Arshavin had started on the left of Wenger's attacking quartet,
attempting to join the central Nasri and right-sided Bendtner
in supporting Marouane Chamakh. Until Johnson's sensational 30-yarder,
Arsenal were in total control, with Nasri running the show.
"Within five minutes, Arsenal were sweeping the ball between
receptive feet, building towards their opening goal. Kieran Gibbs,
Arshavin and Chamakh were all involved, working the ball to Nasri.
The Frenchman glided through before rolling the ball past Schmeichel.
"Arsenal were bewitching, Leeds bewildered. 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.
"Walcott's place on the right was taken by Bendtner, who failed
to turn in an inviting ball from Sagna. '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'.
"Arsenal's control was soon confirmed with a second goal. As
Chamakh and Bendtner carried the ball into Leeds' box, Sagna moved
up on the right. As Andy O'Brien's clearance dropped his way,
Sagna pounced. Steaming in at pace, Sagna arrived like a latter
day Carlos Alberto, belting the ball past Schmeichel.
"It seemed all over. The presses prepared to roll on the obituaries
of Leeds' Cup fortunes for another year. The ball seemed to belong
to Nasri. But Grayson's passion-players, marvellously, had other
"Willed on by their fans, who certainly never accepted Arsenal's
superiority, Leeds embarked
on what appeared a rescue mission. First, though, they had to
make the acquaintance of the ball.
"Howson, a local lad responding to the adrenaline shots pumped
from the terraces, never stopped believing. Nine minutes before
the break, Leeds' captain laid the ball off to his accomplice
in central midfield, Johnson. His response was majestic, the ball
drilled past a startled Szczesny.
"Game on? Elland Road was convinced. Gradel and Snodgrass began
making good ground down the flanks, but how Leeds missed Luciano
Becchio, who failed a fitness test on his back before kick off.
"As Grayson replaced Billy Paynter with Davide Somma in attack,
Wenger was sending on his A-listers. 'Who needs Cesc Fabregas?
We've got Rob Snodgrass,' came the instant response from the Leeds
"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
found Bendtner, who hoisted a superb cross to the far post. Van
Persie leapt high and headed in a header that Frank Stapleton
or Alan Smith would have been proud of. A lot of pride swirled
around Elland Road last night, amongst victors and vanquished
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Simon Grayson: "We were beaten by the better side. It was a testament
to players and club that the side put out was strong. The players
can be proud of what they achieved with their work ethic, the
way they passed it at times, and an attitude to never give in.
That can only stand us in good stead. The players should be proud
of themselves and the fans should be proud of themselves.
"They should be the better team with what they have in their
squad, they passed it better than they did at the Emirates and
at 2-0 we were under the cosh, but we came back with a great goal
from Bradley and we had some good opportunities to get back into
"It's a shame Brad's goal wasn't a winner, it was that good,
but we can take heart from it. At 2-1 we were well and truly in
"Their class told in the end, but nights like this whet everyone's
appetite and you can only learn from it. It's something we want
to do on a regular basis.
"The atmosphere was unbelievable and the national media who were
there understand what we are all about if they didn't know already.
"You could feel the buzz at 5.30pm and I'm very proud of what
the supporters have done for the football club."
Bradley Johnson: "In the Premier League Arsenal are one of the
biggest and one of the best we could come up against. They prove
it week in week out and they proved it last night by beating us
3-1. But we were a little unlucky. We put our all in and could
have got the win.
"We maybe gave them too much respect in the first 20 minutes
because we stood off them and let them play. When we got the goal
it gave the whole team and fans a lift. They were right behind
us and I thought we had a good chance.
"Then they brought Van Persie and Fabregas on and I think the
third goal killed us. We're proud of ourselves and we'll concentrate
on the League now.
"It was a goal I'm not going to forget. I had a chance to shoot
and some of them come off and some of them don't. We're disappointed
we lost, but we shouldn't be because they are the best in the
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