Arsenal navigate tough Leeds test to reach FA Cup fourth round

Soccer Football - FA Cup - Third Round - Arsenal v Leeds United - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - January 6, 2020   Arsenal's Reiss Nelson celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates    Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs
Arsenal players celebrate with match-winner Reiss Nelson (Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs)

Arsenal did just enough to come through a difficult FA Cup third round tie with a hard-fought win against a determined and impressive Leeds side.

The record thirteen-time winners of the competition survived a first half onslaught from the table-topping Championship side in a thrilling FA Cup tie at the Emirates.

Mikel Arteta’s team were much improved after the break with Reiss Nelson scoring the only goal of the game to set up a meeting with Bournemouth in round four.

Marcelo Bielsa will be pleased with the way his team performed for much of the match against so-called superior opposition and will perhaps even come away disappointed not to still be in the competition.

Leeds showed their potential Premier League credentials, dominating the North Londoners in the early exchanges, and Bielsa’s side had their first opportunity after just three minutes when Bamford glanced a header wide from a free kick when ought to have done better.

Jack Harrison then picked up a misplaced Rob Holding pass and played a pass to Bamford but the Arsenal defender was able to scramble back to block the shot.

Arsenal’s first foray forward saw Nicolas Pepe attempt an effort from 20 yards which was held easily by Illan Meslier in the Leeds goal.

Harrison then also tried his luck from distance but the shot was too close to Martinez, who was able to push the ball away.

A stunning passing move then saw the Championship side rip through the Arsenal defence but Bamford’s shot had too much power as it smashed against the crossbar and away.

Leeds continued to grow in confidence as Harrison and Phillips both gave Martinez something to think about with shots to test the back-up stopper.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06:  Jack Harrison of Leeds United is closed down by Emiliano Martinez of Arsenal during the FA Cup Third Round match between Arsenal FC and Leeds United at the Emirates Stadium on January 06, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Emiliano Martinez was the busier of the two goalkeepers by some way in the first half. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Arsenal tried to hit their opponents on the counter attack through Lacazette but the Frenchman was both too slow with his feet and his decision-making and the chance came to nothing.

Leeds were immediately back on the attack but Ezgjan Alioski could only drag his shot wide after finding space on the left hand side of the penalty area.

The Gunners managed to force a corner and almost took an undeserved lead through David Luiz but the Brazilian could only put his header wide of the target from close range.

Martinez was called into action once more, having to get across his goal to deny Alioski, palming the Macedonian’s header away.

Leeds continued to press and apply pressure but couldn’t find the breakthrough their football deserved as the teams went in level at the break.

Arsenal needed to improve and showed their intent after the half time interval when Nelson went on a stunning drive into the Leeds penalty area but the visitors were able to get enough men back to snuff out the danger.

Lacazette then tried his luck from a free kick on the edge of the box but his effort could only clip the top of the crossbar as it went over.

Arsenal’s number nine saw his next effort saved Meslier after good work from Ozil, then Guendouzi curled his a shot from distance the wrong side of the keeper’s right hand post.

Bamford tested Martinez once more but Leeds would be left to rue their missed chances when Nelson gave Arsenal the lead.

Pepe’s fine run and pass found Lacazette on the right of the penalty area and his attempted return to the Ivorian was deflected into the path of Arsenal’s 20-year-old forward who was able to scramble to ball home from close range.

Soccer Football - FA Cup - Third Round - Arsenal v Leeds United - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - January 6, 2020   Arsenal's Reiss Nelson scores their first goal    REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Reiss Nelson puts Arsenal in frront (REUTERS/Eddie Keogh)

The goal was the youngster’s second senior goal for the club in his breakthrough season as he hopes to establish himself as a starter for the team he joined as a boy.

The game opened up with the visitors chasing an equaliser and the Gunners exploiting gaps left in the Leeds backline.

Arsenal thought they might have had a penalty when Lacazette went down under pressure after a slick passing move but referee Anthony Taylor and VAR were unconvinced there was any meaningful contact.

Leeds appeared to tire as the game wore on and substitute Gabriel Martinelli almost found the bottom corner after showing clever feet and getting away a shot that was pushed away by Meslier.

Kolasinac then burst forward and found himself presented with a chance following a one-two with Lacazette, but his low drive was blocked.

Arsenal saw out the victory and will face fellow Premier League side Bournemouth at the Vitality stadium next.

For Leeds, the focus will be on continuing their impressive league campaign and getting the chance to flex their muscles against top flight sides once again next season.

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