FA Carling Premiership
Arsenal 2 - 0 Leeds United
(Half-time: 1 - 0)
|« Leicester City||Aston Villa »|
|Leeds United||Martyn, Kelly, Harte, Radebe, Woodgate, Bridges, Kewell, Bowyer (Jones 79), McPhail, Smith (Wilcox 79), Bakke||Robinson, Duberry, Mills|
|Arsenal||Seaman, Vieira, Adams, Ljungberg, Overmars, Henry (Suker 74), Silvinho, Petit (Winterburn 88), Grimandi, Luzhny, Kanu||Dixon, Manninger, Barrett|
|Arsenal||Ljungberg 32, Henry 58|
|Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Leeds United||Smith, Kewell, Bridges, Kelly|
|Arsenal||Ljungberg, Kanu, Overmars|
|Shirt numbers of goalscorers||0||8, 14|
|Jabba||Pushing my luck|
|The Guardian||Vieira makes up for lost time|
|The Electronic Telegraph||Wise old Arsenal give Leeds mean machine a lesson|
|The Times||Adams stands firm against young upstarts|
|The Independent||Magic of Kanu puts life into Arsenal|
|Yorkshire Evening Post||??|
|BBC||Arsenal 2 - 0 Leeds|
|Soccernet||Arsenal 2 - 0 Leeds United|
Due to an administrative cock-up I didn't have a ticket for this game - but since Highbury is just a few stops down the tube line for me I thought I'd wander on down and see if I could pick one up. None of the usual crowd had a spare, so I wandered past the touts outside the ground (fifty quid minimum) over to Drayton Park to see if I could blag one from one of the supporters clubs in the pub. No luck there, so back to the World's End to say goodbye to the listers and head home to listen to it on RealAudio. Just about to leave the pub and my mobile rings - I sprint down to the Finsbury Park chippy and there's Betty with a couple of Leeds fans - and a spare ticket for the Leeds end. At this point, I know I should have been suspicious. I wasn't wearing any of my lucky items of clothing - but I was in a good mood and had a fiver on Michael Bridges to score first and Leeds to win 2-1. Talk about pushing it!
On to the game. Leeds defended the Clock End in the first half - and for 30 minutes made an excellent job of it. Occasionally we gave them a bit too much space, but we were looking fairly solid. Ljungberg made three dreadful attempts to win free kicks/cards/penalties with dives - but got away with a stern talking to from the ref after the third and most blatant belly flop. Arsenal were on the rebound after a defeat at Cov, and the return of Vieira and a complete rejig of their defence left us facing a very different side from the one that had been so disappointing two days previously.
Leeds had a decent chance when Michael Bridges broke free and shot across David Seaman - Alan Smith made some contact but the Arsenal defence blocked it and Lee Bowyer threw himself at the rebound but failed to make any contact.
Jon Woodgate had another solid day in defence, but Lucas Radebe was closely involved in both goals. For the first, he was far too loose on Kanu: the Nigerian's shot should have been gathered by Martyn, but he spilled it into the path of Ljungberg - who is a good player despite his Greg Luganis impersonations. Ljungberg should have been followed by Harte or Woodgate - they weren't there and we were one down.
Alan Smith was involved in an off-the-ball incident with Grimandi (the same match-up that saw Grimandi sent off last year): this time it was the Frenchman on the floor, but the ref saw nothing to worry about. Smith was later booked for a foul - and Harry found his way into the book at this point for arguing about it. Strangely enough, Petit disputed considerably more decisions than Kewell - and with considerably more force - but for some strange reason was not booked by Mr Poll.
The second half started disappointingly and got worse. Bridges was booked (which I make 5 in the league, so expect a suspension in mid-January - maybe for the Sunderland game?) and whenever we tried to clear our lines we just gave the ball back to Arsenal. Kanu again got the better of Radebe and laid the ball off nicely for Thierry Henry to knock past Nigel Martyn. At 1-0 we had a chance, at 2-0 we were totally out of it. "You're not singing anymore" sang the Arsenal fans. Ironic really - that was the first peep we'd heard out of them all game. "Chelsea must be crap" they said - so no doubt Cov are on Championship form :-).
The tackles kept on flying in - a two-footed jump into Ian Harte should have brought the customary yellow card for Vieira (but once again a home player got the benefit of the doubt) and still O'Leary didn't make a change. Jason Wilcox has impressed when we've seen him so far - so why we didn't see him until there were just 10 minutes to go is puzzling. GG used to leave his substitutions until it was too late for the players to be able to do anything about it - let's hope DOL doesn't fall into the same trap again.
Kelly was a little late in a tackle on Overmars - but received a yellow card (which was fair enough), a stamp and an elbow for his troubles. Once again the noted disciplinarian from Tring decided that the home player's illegal actions didn't merit any further action. We've not had a great deal of change from Graham Poll over the years and today was no exception: Ljungberg and Overmars (and possibly Alan Smith) should have walked but didn't - but that's not to say it would have made any difference to the outcome, and I wouldn't dream of trying to blame the ref for this defeat. We were tired and jaded and Arsenal were too committed and too skillful for us this afternoon. This was our 9th game in 31 days, and after the effort that was made to beat Leicester on Sunday, it seems that this was just a bridge too far for the team. A relatively restful January beckons: in the 38 days before we are due to face Liverpool at Anfield we have just 4 games scheduled (maybe 5 if we beat Man City in the FA Cup). Maybe by then we'll see the return of David Batty and Darren Huckerby, and Lee Bowyer, Michael Bridges and Alan Smith will have a chance to give their long-term niggling injuries a chance to rest and recuperate.
It's a disappointing way to finish the century, but if we'd have come out of the last three games with 5 points I'd have been happy. We've managed six points and Sunderland's draw with Man U tonight means we're still top of the league - albeit with a reduced lead. We've got 18 games to go: Liverpool at Anfield, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man U at Leeds are the obviously difficult ones - but if we can bring the same level of consistency to the other 14 that we've managed so far this season we could find that the outcome of those 4 games will go towards determining whether we end up as Champions - or just in the Champions League. The former would be wonderful - the latter is the more realistic target and we've got to focus on achieving it if we want to establish ourselves as a real power in Europe.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 29/12/1999.
Confidence flowed back into Arsenal's football yesterday as Arsène Wenger's team beat Leeds United with the relieved look of men awaking from a bad dream. Arsenal may still be some way off leading the Premiership but at least they played like a side who had again become fully conversant with the art of the possible.
For the youngsters of Leeds the afternoon offered a singular lesson in the perils of getting up the noses of talented opponents. David O'Leary's players gave Arsenal the respect that might have been expected from South Park juniors by cocking a snook at Tony Adams and winding up Emmanuel Petit like a clockwork mouse. But in the end they were given extra tuition by Patrick Vieira and Nwankwo Kanu, who with Thierry Henry and Fredrik Ljungberg increasingly dominated the game.
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