ANOTHER big night at Elland Road beckons for Leeds United after they earned a lucrative FA Cup third round replay with a battling 1-1 draw against Arsenal.
Simon Grayson’s men will face the Gunners again, on home soil this time, on January 18 or 19 with a home tie against Huddersfield Town at stake for the winners.
Grayson was justifiably proud of his players’ efforts in Saturday’s tie at the Emirates Stadium when they led through Robert Snodgrass’s 54th minute penalty only for Cesc Fabregas to equalise, also from the spot, in the 90th minute.
He said: “I have immense pride in what the players have done. The performance, their attitude, the quality they showed.
“Obviously it’s tinged with frustration that we’ve got to within a couple of minutes of pulling off a major result.
“I said before the players left the dressing room: ‘Have no regrets when you come back in. Do yourself proud and the fans proud’.
“Individuals have done well but any success we have had in the past and will do in the future is about us as a team collectively.
“Arsenal are a fantastic football club and it is testament to our players they have had to bring on Fabregas and Walcott to try to win the game. We have done well for ourselves and will approach the replay with the same attitude.”
Grayson was able to look back on a big defensive effort, led by impressive goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (pictured) and centre-back Alex Bruce, who had probably his best game in a Leeds shirt to fully justify the decision to recall him at the expense of Neill Collins.
Midfielders Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson were also heroic in the big shifts they put in and although little was seen of United as an attacking force apart from a 15 minute spell after their goal it was always on the cards they would need a backs to the wall job against such esteemed opposition.
Leeds rode their luck a little as Nicklas Bendtner missed several chances for the Gunners, Marouanne Chamakh missed a sitter, Howson cleared one off the line and Schmeichel made great saves to deny Andrey Arshavin and Denilson in particular.
But they would have added to their lead when Luciano Becchio saw a header equally well saved by Wojciech Szczesny.
(Fabregas, pen 90)
Leeds United 1
(Snodgrass pen, 54)
Saturday, January 8, 2011
FA Cup, round three
Arsenal: Szczesny, Eboue, Squillaci, Djorou, Gibbs, Bendtner, Song (Fabregas 59), Denilson, Rosicky (Vela 79), Arshavin, Chamakh (Walcott).
Leeds: Schmeichel, Connolly, O’Brien, Bruce, Parker, Watt (Bromby 76), Howson, Johnson, Snodgrass, Gradel (Hughes 90), Becchio (Somma 85).
Referee: Phil Dowd.