Apologies first of all, for not having replied any comments on my last post, or even commented on any posts. Been crazy busy, and I have not, and still don’t, have my laptop with me, but hopefully by the end of next month, I should be more settled and shoud be able to contribute more often to the blog. Sincere apologies.
So, the game. The line-up for the game was very similar to the last game at Leeds, but with Koscielny coming in for Squillaci, and Nasri in for Rosicky. Theo and Cesc on the bench as well.
Sagna – Koscielny– Djourou – Gibbs
Denilson – Song
Bendtner – Nasri – Arshavin
I missed the start of the game, having been down to Southampton for a job interview, and First Capital Connect deciding not to run any fast trains today of all days, for whatever reason! Anyways, I only missed about a minute and a half, so it was not all bad.
But from where I started, Leeds were putting us under a whole load of pressure, with the defence having to be resolute. And next thing I know, we score! First attack I saw, a counter-attack, and Nasri had it in the back of the net. A bit fortunate, as the assist came from a Leeds player, but the finish was assured, sliding the ball past the ‘keeper at his near post. 5 minutes on the clock. Not a bad start at all, and it looked like we would go on and build from it.
We should have doubled our lead, first with Arshavin, a low cross in the box only just evading him, and a few minutes later, a similar chance fell to Bentdner from a Sagna cross, but the ball evaded him as well! If Nasri had not scored, it would have seemed like it’d be one of those days!
But the second goal duly came, but from an unlikely source! It was Sagna! His second goal this season, and what a strike it was! Very similar to his first effort this season as well! He probably got fed up of the crosses only just evading players and decided to have a go himself, cutting in towards the box from the right, and drilling an effort which schmeichel could only palm into the net. FIERCE! 0-2 love and cruising, it seemed! And with only 35 minutes having played.
One would have thought that would have killed Leeds off, but they came back strongly! With the pressure on us defensively, Arshavin tried to clear the ball, just to the left (or was what right? I get both confused all the time, sorry!) and he seemd to be fouled by the Leeds player, but the referee thought otherwise. Ball then got played to a Leeds player, about 30 yards out, and probably having just been inspired by Sagna (or his goal from a similar range in his last game), he hit the ball sweetly, the ball nestling into the top-corner, still on the rise! Fabulous goal! And sorry Sagna, it was a better one than yours. But it’s okay Sagna, I love you more. Well, I don’t love the Leeds player at all, but you get my point. Johnson it was, the Leeds goal-scorer. Life-long Arsenal fan I hear. Nice memento for him.
But the goal really lifted the crowd, and the Leeds players as well, and it was a good thing it was so close to half-time, as Leeds were really pumped after that goal. Well-deseved goal though it was, but they definitely did not deserve to be level.
1-2 at half-time fair result, but we had to ensure we didn’t let Leeds continue on the high on which they ended the first half.
So it was good to see that we started the second half very quickly out of the blocks, Song having an effort saved by the ‘keeper with about 30 seconds on the board! And from the resulting corner and free-kick, Nasri’s effort, although straight at the ‘keeper, was almost dropped back over the line! Great start. We even had a spate of 3 successive corners, but nothing came out of it.
With about 58 mintes on the clock, Cesc started to warm up. But Arshavin had a great chance to score, but his effort was wide! He was alone on the far left in the box, but when the ball was played to him, he lost his composure and blazed over. I thought he had a generally good game, but his shooting boots haven’t done the business for him.
Leeds did have one or two chances, but our goalie was largely untroubled, well, minus their goal. He had to be alert after an Arshavin back-header almost played a Leeds player in, but he was quick off his line.
With 25 minutes to go, Leeds made a substitution, and he almost scored with his first touch! But luckily the ball looped over the net. Heart-in-mouth moment. We made two substitutions shortly afterwards, with Arshavin and Chamakh coming off for van Persie and Cesc. Not a bad couple of subs to have! 20 minutes to go at this stage.
Fabregas in on the action straight away, having a go at a free-kick outside the box slightly towards the right, but he hit it just wide of the post!
But umm, 1-3 now! Great ball from Bendtner on the right, and with the ball just hanging there waiting to be headed, van Persie obliged and nodded it in! Why do I think that was his first touch (well, headers count as touches, don’t they?)? Either way, great goal, and definitely eased the pressure. I read a stat on twitter that apparently we’d won our last 2 or 3 matches at Elland Road, we’d won 1-4, so maybe we were simply trying to continue that trend! About 15 minutes left to get that 4th!
With about 7 or 8 minutes to go, Nasri got replaced, to a standing ovation, by Clichy. And with Cesc on and in the middle of midfield and Arshavin off, I’m guessing Gibbs then replaced Nasri on the left of the midfield. A bit confusing, I apologise…
Kitchen sink time with 90 minutes on the clock, with the Leeds goalie even going up. But with 4 minutes of injury-time having been added, he had to hotfoot it back!
We didn’t get the 4th goal in the end, but more importantly, we didn’t let Leeds score and put too much pressure on us in the closing stages, and we comfortably saw the game out. Cracking cup tie, but the right team won in the end.
I was impressed yet again with Djourou, as his anticipation was mostly on point. His presence is definitely a big plus at the back. Not much to say about individual performances, as we didn’t really need to get out of 3rd gear to win the game, but I am pretty sure that had we needed to put in more effort, we would have easily changed gears. Everyone did what they had to do. Shame we didn’t see Theo, but Arsene knows best!
Nasri was man of the match, well-deserved. Good to see van Persie getting on the scoresheet more often, and crucially not picking up any injuries in the process! It bodes well.
So with Leeds dispatched, up next is a home game against Huddersfield. We can with that at the first time of asking, no?