The travelling Gooners opened with ‘You’re going down with the Tottenham’ as the men in yellow kicked towards us in the first half and Leeds kicked off. The first foul was on Cole and the first hack at Vieira was by Batty. Leeds game plan appeared to be to close quickly put themselves about and work their rocks off. This they did well and had us under pressure early doors, although they were not being particularly creative. There were plenty of free kicks and a lot of things missed by the ref Rob Styles, but this being a Cup tie he seemed largely unconcerned about studs flying in.
A back pass by Campbell appeared to give Lehmann all the time he needed, but our keeper kicked it just a tad too far and then belted it at the fast closing Viduka off whom it rebounded into the vacant net. 1-0 to Leeds and what can only be described as a total cock up by our German keeper, plus of course a disastrous start for Arsenal. Arsenal being Arsenal however, there was no sign of panic and we proceeded to play our way back into the match by attempting to work some moves, mainly in the wide areas.
Leeds however were up for it and put us under a deal of pressure without being able to penetrate or carve out much in the way of clear cut chances. On the other hand Arsenal were finding a lot of joy from wide crosses, as when Cole found Edu wide left whose tidy pass found Henry who volleyed over with his left peg. A good chance from which he probably should have scored. When Leeds pegged us back we defended with all eleven players. A corner conceded by Cole was palmed away by Jens for another corner on the other wing. This second one being well caught by Lehmann.
A Kanu cross saw Freddie tripped by Milner on the opposite flank. So Henry took the free kick wide right, Duberry headed clear and Freddie was wide with his return shot.
Milner had a shot saved, Pat had his first driving run and Robinson was already taking his time. Gilberto had a lot of passes go astray in the first half but improved as the match went on and in fact had an excellent second half. Freddie remained very wide on the right, Lauren and Cole got forward a fair deal, while Sol and Martin were very strong at the back. Lauren covered well, Gilberto played a poor ball, Pat gave it away and Martin conceded a free kick but the best Leeds could offer at this stage was a shot hit wide by Viduka. Bakke was putting himself about and was spoken to for a late challenge on Lauren. ‘ArseneWengersRedArmy’
We equalised when a sweet cross by Freddie was met with an unhurried, unpressured strike by Thierry. He appeared to be unmarked, but may have made the space with a run, I can’t say because I was watching Freddie’s cross. 1-1 and although we were not in total control you felt the tide had turned. Pat was late on Bakke. Henry was badly obstructed but Styles gave us nothing so a rather pissed off Henry chased back to win the ball back in our right back slot. ‘We’ve got the best player in the world’.
The queues for the bogs at half time were horrendous, I imagine the ladies are still there queuing! We managed to move a few rows further back at the break but now had a cross bar blocking the view on occasions. I shouldn’t complain I know, at least I was able to be there. Edu had a run that was stopped when Smith conceded a free kick. Keown was called upon to head clear before Arsenal put together a string of passes, getting back into a good rhythm for the second half. Edu had a shot blocked and then we won a free kick on the edge of Leeds box when Vieira went down. Henry’s shot was deflected onto the roof of their net. Campbell headed just over from Edu’s corner. ‘Going down with the Tottenham’.
Some helter-skelter stuff rampaged around the pitch and this included a great clearance by Keown that had to be spot on or it had own goal written all over it. Edu headed the corner clear. Leeds gave us a good battering in the second half but for all their possession we held them at bay well and looked like we could go up a couple of gears if we needed to. We managed to take the steam out of any Leeds pressure but they did enough to make Sol come up with a brilliant saving headed clearance. Edu and Kanu were on hand for further clearances. Cole worked a move down the left flank to Henry who got it over to Freddie but Leeds cleared. Cole got in another great cross for Kanu who seemed to have his shot saved from point blank range, but our perspective was poor from the other end. A fine solo followed from Kanu, the sort of slalom he excels at.
Smith fired one high and wide. A wild sliced kick by Jens unintentionally put Freddie away on the right. Bakke was replaced by Sakho. Keown took it off Viduka’s foot after a good run by Smith. Brilliant play by Henry on the right who then crossed for Freddie. Milner got in a decent cross but looked offside. Big handball appeal against the Gunners, but I think not. Great Ljungberg run ends with him finding the side netting. Flying tackles were still flying in from both teams. Lehmann managed to injure Milner whilst coming out of his box to clear, there was no intent. Another Kanu solo looked like it should have ended with a corner.
The 4th. official, Uriah Rennie, indicated that Dennis was coming on as a sub for Gilberto, but Dennis wasn’t even on the bench and Gilberto stayed on. In fact Ray replaced Freddie on the right, Kolo replaced Edu on the left and Pires replaced Kanu in the hole. Kolo got stuck in immediately and then Gilberto chopped Sakho on a run to earn a yellow card. Lennon replaced the limping Milner who had done well and looks to be a decent prospect. Ray, Robert and Thierry performed some standard Arsenal magic before Kolo and Ashley did something similar down our left flank.
Two minutes added time and Arsenal worked a classy move that involved Ray, Thierry Robert and Kolo and was finished off when Pires found Kolo at the far post, on our right. Toure jumped high to steer home a side footed shot that made it 1-4 to Arsenal. ‘We always win 4-1, we always win 4-1, 4-1 we always win 4-1’. An enjoyable day out and yet another F A Cup win. One latest in a continuing run of unbeaten F A Cup matches over three seasons that I’ve been privileged to attend. How long can it last, and have you booked your hotel room in Cardiff yet?
A classic comment was heard on the radio whilst coming home down the M1, a Gooner phoned in to say how lucky we were knowing that we couldn’t face Arsenal in the 4th. Round draw. Amen to that.