FA Cup – Return of the King as Arsenal legend Thierry Henry’s strike downs Leeds
Arsenal 1-0 Leeds
Leeds adopted a 4-5-1 formation, and unsurprisingly, Arsene Wenger kept to his trademark 4-2-3-1 formation.
The game started at a lively pace, an early interchange between Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh saw the Russian fire over Lonergan’s crossbar. On the 15 minute mark, Sebastien Squillaci headed narrowly wide from a well flighted Arteta free kick.
22 minutes and Arshavin was back in the action again, quick feet and a drop of the shoulder saw him wriggle into the opposition box where he produced a slightly over-hit reverse pass for Chamakh, who in turn cut the ball back for Aaron Ramsey, whose shot was deflected wide. The young Wales captain was again involved moments later with a driving run from the half way line, but off balance, his left foot attempt sailed into the travelling Leeds fans.
On-loan Tottenham winger Andros Townsend was the brightest spark for the visitors; he looked a threat down the left flank, but lacked support from central areas.
After a poor headed clearance from Alex Song, Townsend took the ball and headed powerfully towards the byline, before cutting it back for Becchio, who’s first-time shot sailed over Szczesny’s bar.
More injury woes for Arsenal came just after the half hour mark with Francis Coquelin going down in pain on the turf, clutching the top of his hamstring. His evening was over, and on came Nico Yennaris, an 18-year-old England Youth International to slot in at right back.
As the game approached the half way stage in a largely disappointing cup-tie, Andros Townsend again looked lively but he looked to be on a different wavelength to the lone Leeds forward, Becchio.
Arsenal started the second half well; they shifted the ball quickly around the Leeds penalty area, but never looked like creating many chances. On the hour mark, the Arsenal left back Ignasi Miquel drilled a 45 yard cross-field ball to pick out Arshavin, the Russian attempted to volley the ball first time, but his timing was out as he sliced the shot wide.
Arsenal looked to be slowly moving through the gears, they worked the ball well down the left with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pulling back to Chamakh, who’s lay-off picked out Arteta for a first time shot, only for Andy Lonergan to produce a fine one-handed save low down to his left.
Moments later, Oxlade-Chamberlain drilled a shot from 20 yards which stung Lonergan’s fingers. Arsenal were now piling on the pressure, but an accomplished performance from the Championship side matched every card Arsenal had to play.
With 22 minutes remaining, Wenger produced a King from his hand in the shape of Thierry Henry. It was a double substitution with Theo Walcott and Henry replacing Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chamakh.
In the 78th minute the inevitable fairytale happened, after fine movement off the ball, Henry collected an Alex Song pass into the left-hand side of the area, and the first touch made the goal; trademark Henry, he cushioned the ball perfectly into his stride, opened his body and slotted the ball inside the far post to send the Emirates Stadium wild.
Ross McCormack and Mikel Forssell came close to leveling but smart saves from Szczesny denied the equalizer.
Mr. Clattenberg called time on the night and Henry was crowned Man of the Match.