Gunners see off Leeds
Samir Nasri helped Arsenal overcome a potentially tricky FA Cup third round replay as Arsene Wenger's side defeated Leeds 3-1 on Wednesday to book a fourth round date with Huddersfield.
After being held 1-1 by Simon Grayson's Championship team at the Emirates 11 days earlier and losing to Ipswich in the League Cup semi-final first leg, the pressure was on Arsenal to avoid another embarrassing slip-up.
Nasri eased any nerves before Bacary Sagna doubled their lead at Elland Road. Bradley Johnson's spectacular 30-yard effort before half-time lifted a 38,000 full house at Elland Road before substitute Robin van Persie killed the tie off just six minutes after coming on.
"We wanted to start really strongly. We scored after five minutes and tried to play our game even though the pitch was a little difficult," Nasri told ITV. "We want to win every competition and this cup is really important to us."
Johnson said: "We are disappointed but we gave them a good run for their money again and we'll take a lot of positives from it."
Leeds, 22 places below Arsenal on the league ladder, had come within seconds of eliminating the ten-times FA Cup winners at the Emirates Stadium. But Nasri seemed determined to ensure there would be no shock on the cards this time as he beat keeper Kasper Schmeichel in the fifth minute with an 18-yard finish. The French international took his tally for the season to 14 after a delightful pass by Andrey Arshavin had left the Leeds defence in tatters and Nasri clean through.
Arsenal are looking to avoid a sixth successive season without a trophy and Wenger's side appeared anxious to kill this replay off at an early stage. Only a stunning one-handed save by Schmeichel denied Marouane Chamakh from doubling the lead with an 11th minute header, while Arshavin looked in the mood to add to his goal tally. The Russian international fired one effort over the bar before failing to connect with Chamakh's pin-point cross six yards out.
Grayson's promotion hopefuls were unable to find the form that helped beat Manchester United in the third round at Old Trafford 12 months earlier. Arshavin again fluffed a great chance after Sagna's cross before the latter doubled the lead ten minutes before the interval.
Sagna let fly with a ferocious effort which punished Andy O'Brien's poor clearance soon after a move between Nicklas Bendtner and Nasri had broken down. Arsenal appeared to be in cruise control. But Elland Road erupted after Johnson reminded the visitors that the tie was far from over after beating Wojciech Szczesny with a glorious 30-yard effort. It is unlikely there will be a better goal in this season's competition yet Leeds were unable to build on the momentum.
Arsenal came out firing on all cylinders at the start of the second half, Schmeichel denying Song and Nasri within two minutes of the re-start. Max Gradel and Robert Snodgrass continued to ask questions of the Gunners defence, but the visitors stood firm and would have had a more comfortable ending had Arshavin not spurned another glorious chance in the 58th minute.
Arsenal's subs bench was stronger than the team Wenger started with. Cesc Fabregas, van Persie, Theo Walcott and Gael Clichy all started on the sidelines yet it was a sign of Wenger's concern that both Spanish FIFA World Cup™ winner Fabregas and van Persie were forced to come on for the final 20 minutes. And van Persie ensured there would be no shock when he was allowed to rise unchallenged to head home Bendtner's 76th minute cross.