Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Match report:Arsenal 1 Leeds United 0

Leeds took on Arsenal for the second year in succession with only Luciano Becchio remaining from the team which started the game 12 months previously.Zac Thompson was named at right-back in a young back-four, Mika Vayrynen was recalled to the heart of the midfield, loan man Andros Townsend was handed a wide right role, and Ramon Nunez came into the side to play just behind Becchio. For the Gunners, the returning Thierry Henry was named on the bench for the first time since his loan move from NY Red Bulls.Last season, United were only denied by a late penalty which sent the tie back to Elland Road following a great performance at the Emirates.This time around, the home side again started on the front foot with Andrey Arshavin wasting one good early chance after great work by Marouane Chamakh. As expected, Arsenal enjoyed plenty of possession during the opening stages, but United kept men behind the ball and looked organised.
Sebastien Squillaci did come within a whisker after 15 minutes when he got up well to meet a Mikael Arteta delivery, but he couldn't place his header on target.United responded by Townsend sending the ball in from the left flank but Wojciech Szczesny was able to gather at the near post.At the other end, Aaron Ramsey found the space to surge forward, but his shot was just off target. Ramsey was also prevented from pulling a ball back into the box after Andy Lonergan reacted quickly to smother at his feet. Next up, Ramsey had a shot deflected wide after Arsenal got in behind Leeds and started to put some real pressure on.
The home side were enjoying all the ball, and Arteta was next to go close when he drilled a shot wide on 23 minutes.
But United did fashion out a chance moments later, Vayryrnen doing well down the left after Arsenal failed to clear their lines at a free-kick and Luciano Becchio smashed a shot over the bar.
As the game edged past the half-hour mark, United appeared more settled and were able to enjoy some spells of possession, Townsend was looking a threat down the flanks and Leeds looked comfortable with the ball.
Half-time arrived with Arsenal winning a corner, the impressive Aidy White blocking a Ramsey effort, but United could feel pleased with the performance as the opening 45 minutes ended goalless.
The game was well poised, but it was the home side who mounted the first raid of the second period when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sent a shot wide of the mark. Arshavin wasted another decent opportunity and a header flew wide of the mark as the hosts again looked to apply some early pressure on Leeds.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had another shot blocked as the Gunners turned up the heat and Tom Lees had to react well to head a cross from the former Southampton youngster over the bar.
On the hour mark, Grayson made his first change when the hard-working Vayrynen was replaced at the heart of the midfield by Michael Brown.
Still Arsenal looked to force the opening and Lonergan saved well from oxlade-Chamberlain after a lovely one-two with Ramsey.
United were restricted to looking to hit Arsenal on the counter and Townsend appeared to be harshly booked after appealing for a corner following a surging run forward.
And, with Henry and Theo Walcott witing to come on, United looked to create another opening, courtesy of the lively Townsend.
But the score was still 0-0 when Arsenal's legendary Frenchman brought the loudest cheer of the night from the home support when he was introduced.
With 15 minutes left, United were still very much in the game and Nunez tried his luck from distance, but Szczesny was able to recover quickly to gather his shot.
But the opening goal came just three minutes later and, almost as if it had been scripted, it was Henry who finished off a flowing move with a good finish to crown his Arsenal return with a goal.
United almost responded immediately, Brown trying his luck from distance and McCormack heading at Szczesny, following a Clayton cross.
But it was Arsenal who were heading towards victory and Arshavin wasted a good chance to put the game beyond doubt with eight minutes left when he failed to test Lonergan despite being well placed. Ignasi Miquel also wasted a good chance by wanting too much time on the ball.
But United still weren't done and Mikael Forssell forced Szczesny into making a reaction save in the 90th minute of the game.
Danny Pugh also had a shot from long range in stoppage time, but there was to be no equaliser and United slipped out of the FA Cup on a night when Arsenal's Henry took the headlines for proving the difference between the two sides yet again.

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