Arsenal Sidestep Potential Banana Skin at Elland Road
A classy performance from a near full-strength Arsenal ensured that the Gunners were presented with an ultimately comfortable night at Elland Road as they beat Leeds United 3-1 in their FA Cup third round replay.
Arsene Wenger’s had to make the potentially difficult trip to Yorkshire after a disciplined performance from Simon Grayson’s men held them to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates to earn a replay in front of their own fans.
However, what could have been a damaging night for Arsenal’s collective confidence got off to the best possible start as the in-form Samir Nasri latched on to Andrei Arshavin’s clever ball to open the scoring five minutes in.
The goal gave the visitors a visible lift and wave after wave of Arsenal attack followed, with only the fantastic stops of Kasper Schmeichel denying them a second as he first scooped Maroune Chamakh’s header off the line and then impressively kept out Arshavin’s fierce low strike from the edge of the box.
It would only be a matter of time before Arsenal got their second though, and when it arrived it came from one of the most unlikely of sources as right-back Bacary Sagna fired a long-range shot into the top corner with Schmeichel for once culpable. It looked as though Leeds were in for a long night, but their reply was instant.
Bradley Johnson proved that anything Sagna could do, he could do better by firing an unstoppable left-footed strike past the despairing dive of Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny from all of 30 yards. It gave the home side an unlikely foothold in a game that they had not yet been in and the score remained 2-1 until half time.
Unfortunately for the Elland Road faithful, the second half saw much of the same as the one-way traffic continued. The impressive Nasri was the architect of everything good about Arsenal’s play, but for all guile he was frequently let down by the finishing of team-mate’s Nicklas Bendtner and an increasingly-frustrated Arshavin.
With Wenger looking to kill off the tie, he threw on captain Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie and their impact was telling. Fabregas immediately forced a diving save from Schmeichel from a free-kick, but Van Persie’s first touch was even more decisive as the Dutchman powerfully headed home from a superb Bendtner cross.
The goal proved enough to see off Leeds’ challenge and though the home side can take great heart from their performance over the two legs, it will be Wenger’s side that face Huddersfield in the next round.