Pre match the Gooners were in fine voice 'Shall we sing a song for you' 'Nationwide, Nationwide, Nationwide' 'The manky Tottenham Hotspur went up to see the pope, and this is what he said..' Leeds looked livelier than of late with Seth Johnson doing his bit alongside Batty in midfield. Cole versus Pennant was a major source of entertainment throughout with Cole playing a blinder. Jermaine was good but only really effective with the early ball as our Ash was in winning tackle mode all match. Kelly found Sakho who's shot was saved by Lehmann early doors and Leeds took this as a cue to attack. Bad move.
If you attack then Arsenal counter, as when a Henry a Bergkamp broke and almost put Freddie through. Leeds were flagged offside as Sakho drilled one past our far post. Seven minutes gone a great ball from Ashley Cole to Henry on the run, he engaged the after-burners and slid it past Robinson and was 0-1 to the Arsenal. 'We shall not we shall not be moved'. Freddie to Thierry who was just offside. Cole and Pennant in a race, Roque Junior and Dennis tangle. Johnson was battling well. Seventeen minutes and it was Freddie on a fine run, three other Arsenal men broke at speed. Lungberg's low pass went past the fast advancing Henry and Gilberto central and found Pires who came steaming in on the left, his near post shot made it 0-2 Arsenal. 'You might as well go home' 'Super Rob'.
Great ball through to Bergkamp who might have volleyed it but tried to set up Ljungberg. Steward number 501 was not entering into the spirit of the occasion and insisted on getting the Gooners to sit down, the inevitable 'Stand up if you hate Tottenham' resulted. Followed by 'Stand up if you hate Manu' along with gestures for the Leeds fans to join in, which they did. Arsenal were on song despite Leeds working hard and still trying to attack. To prove just how on song we were Rob won a fifty-fifty ball. Dennis had a hack at Rogue Junior shortly before an 'almost' attempt to get Henry away.
Gilberto was nicking balls and having a seriously good game. Camara nicked one off the toes of Henry in a very good position. Campbell did well against Smith. I like Smith he works hard, niggles away, gives his all and has good close control, I'd be quite happy to swap him for Pennant when the Leeds bankers (spelling mistake?) call again with more bad news. I'll never love Leeds but I do currently feel for their fans who started slowly today but were still giving their all at the end.
Great turn, run and then chase by Henry. It looked like Jermaine tried to elbow Ashley before Batty clattered him in what looked like a very bookable assault. Cole stayed down injured and after he returned Gary Lewin was rewarded with his own chant as he walked around the pitch. Leeds were giving it a go and Kolo was required to head one out. A Batty foul on Parlour required words from the ref but no card, well not until Batty got too lippy as he walked away and then the card was pulled out. Assault someone and it's no problem, get lippy with a ref and you get a card. Priorities eh? Although to be fair Mike Dean the ref had a pretty good match overall.
Sol conceded a corner and Kolo headed it clear. A good ball from Ray to Dennis set up a fine chance which Dennis fired into the post far post, from the rebound Thierry converted our third with ease. 0-3 Arsenal and more goal celebrations in front of the happy Gooners. 'Go home, you might as well go home' 'You only came to see the Arsenal' there were thirty two minutes gone and you couldn't quite see this one as going the same way as the recent Wolves v Leicester. What followed was a master class in passing, it was very close to a piss take, when at one point, we hit 13 passes all around the pitch and back to Lehmann before making another 9 before Johnson could tackle Ray and concede a throw in. 27 passes I reckoned without a Leeds player touching the ball. Why didn't they show that in the highlights programme?
A Toure run ended with a Bergkamp shot, Kolo has got the balance right with solid defending and just the odd sortie up field. Sakho chopped Henry as Arsenal continued in their game of keep ball. Henry showed us some party pieces, the sort that make you go Ooooo, Arrrrr as if you were at a firework display, which we were on our journey back down the M1. Parlour to Lungberg, almost. Another good tackle by Gilberto. Freddie to Dennis to Thierry who fired well over. An amusing 'What the fecking hell was that?' from the Gooners, but Thierry didn't quite seem to see the joke so a chant of 'Thierry Henry' quickly followed.
Two minutes added time allowed time for Henry to be badly fouled on the edge of their area but the break had been so fast the ref was about two miles away and didn't see it. The half time whistle arrived as the Arsenal fans in ironic mood were chanting 'Boring, boring Arsenal'. It had been as good as the previous season.
Leeds gave their all in the second half, as did their fans and as a result it was a cracking match after the break. Leeds had put the lively young Milner on for Bridges and Olembe who had a pretty good match at left back threw in an early cross. Olembe then tripped Freddie wide right, Dennis took it and it went right across goal and came back from Pires on the left. A slight touch from Sol found Gilberto was there to stab it home with his left foot to make it 0-4 Arsenal. Brilliant stuff, but I can't see the Highbury fans reacting the way the Leeds fans did though. Last season Leeds rolled over and died. This season we beat them just as convincingly but this was a real contest and their fans helped to drive them on. With the game dead and buried they rallied their players.
Olembe fouled Freddie once more and got his yellow card. A great save by Lehmann. Henry caught offside as Freddie went through on goal. Smith with a reasonable shot on the turn. Gilberto unloaded Batty. Pennant was running hard, at one point he chased Henry back and won the ball. A great tackle by Cole on Kelly. Sakho off Lennon on, and he almost immediately ran it out of play. Lennon again from wide left slipped one inside to Smith at the near post who with the faintest of touches, or maybe not, made it 1-4.
Lehmann caught a very high ball cleanly, it was so high it may have had snow on it as it returned towards earth. Pires headed another fine cross clear before Smith hit the post. Pennant went down following an aerial challenge with Henry and the ball was properly kicked out. Edu on for Ljungberg. Cole almost wormed his way through but couldn't cut it back following a great turn. Henry went on a brilliant run but Ray couldn't quite pick him out. Smith fired over again before Aliadiere replaced Bergkamp and young Jeremie was impressive, I particularly love the way he hares off towards near or far post when we break.
We appeared to have two shots and I'm pretty sure one from Henry hit Parlour up the arse. It was at the other end but it may just have been goal bound. Good chase by Lennon. Henry found Parlour with a fabulous ball and Ray hit over a perfect cross which Aliadiere headed over. This was really a cracking game. Jens caught, dropped, retrieved and threw all in one flowing motion. Henry found Lauren who had his shot blocked and once more Gilberto had slipped unnoticed into the right back slot as cover. Gilberto had a fine match and is unappreciated still by many fans. Quite simply he lets others play by his good covering. Three corners in quick succession and the third saw Edu head just wide. Lehmann caught another easy cross, Smith fell over to win a free kick but Johnson wasted it. A late chase and lunge by Milner showing all his studs to Lehmann was met with a few choice words by our German. Both teams gave their all until the final whistle.
Final score 1-4 but it hadn't been as easy as last season because unlike that match Leeds didn't roll over and die. They nearly matched us in the second half, and although we were still by far the better side it wasn't due to lack of effort on their part. I think they may be about to turn the corner but I also think we may be about to go on a roll, if the impending suspensions allow us.