Leeds United (0) 1 - 4 (3) Arsenal|
Elland Road, Saturday 1st November 2003
Another 4-1 win at Elland Road thanks to another excellent team performance.
Much credit must go to Leeds for keeping it going, for having a go in the second half and especially to their fans for getting right behind the team all the way to the end.
Leeds had the upper hand for a few minutes at the start, and Lehmann had to make a save from Sakho. Viduka was missing up front, having left the ground after an alleged bust-up wuith Peter Reid. When you're in the awful position Leeds are, the last thing you need is a £60000+ per week prima donna turning up late all the time.
Perhaps Leeds were a bit too positive today. Arsenal hit them 3 times in the first half with clinical counter-attacks. First, after 7 minutes, a long ball from Ashley Cole over the top found Henry beating the offside trap by the halfway line. He nodded it on past Camara leaving himself a clear 40 yard run at Robinson, who was beaten with a calm side-footer.
10 minutes later, another counter attack. Gilberto on the edge of the box missed Ljungberg's square ball but it came through to Pires. One nice touch to set it up, then another calm side-footed shot past Robinson for 2-0.
Just after the half hour, a Leeds corner was cleared and Henry took it past Batty and into their half. It was passed via Freddie to Bergkamp, whose shot hit the post but came back for Henry who had followed through to knock the loose ball into the roof of the net.
Just before half time, Henry missed an easy chance for the hattrick from 10 yards when he tried to blast the shot rather than place it.
5 minutes after half time a Bergkamp free kick into the box was well cleared by Kelly (having to deal with more than his fair share of Arsenal shirts), bt only as far as Pires on the far side. He cross it back in and it was deflected to Gilberto at the far post for another easy finish.
A couple of minutes later and Sakho forced another fine save from Lehmann - the first time he had been called into action since the one at the start of the first half. But they continued to try to get back into the game abd just after the hour Smith got the consolation goal. The youngsters Milner and Lennon combined in midfield, and the latter's cross into the box saw Campbell allowing Smith to get in front of him for the tap-in.
Shortly after, Smith hit the post. And near the end Henry was again denied the hattrick, this time by the backside of his captain for the day Ray Parlour.
Great to see Parlour getting a start in the centre of midfield. Thsi must be a good bet while Vieira's out, as so many people have been saying for so long. There are plenty of other options on the right wing, and the midfield has so much more bite with Ray in it. Not sure about choosing Gilberto ahead of Edu as his partner, though. But he had a decent game today and popped up with a goal as well.
No need to go on about Arsenal's attacking play: Henry, Bergkamp, Pires all on form says it all really, apart from to add that as usual it was nice to see Thierry Henry's lack of selfishness when on a hattrick. Everyone knows about his pace and touch and all that, but his humility and willingness to sacrifice personal glory for that of the team is one of his greatest attributes.
You'll probably see a good few comments on Ashley Cole's performance today. Everyone was looking forward to seeing him up against his mate (and fellow Arsenal player!) Jermaine Pennant. Pennant's been doing well at Leeds, but there was wasn't much of a contest on that wing today. Either Jermaine's not as good as people have been making out, or Ashley's defensive abilities are rather stronger than many people give him credit for. We like to favour the latter interpretation.
Arsenal stay top by a point, with Man U and Chelsea both winning as well.