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Arsenal vs Leeds - FA Cup 3rd Round

by FA Cup 2012

Arsenal 1-0 Leeds:

The FA Cup is all about dreams.

And last night’s is one Arsenal fans won’t want to wake up from.

The recently maligned Arsenal boss certainly did something right in bringing back Thierry Henry – even if only for six-and-a-half weeks. He said after the goal: "It was a little bit a dream. It was the story you would tell some young kids who you wanted to tell a story about football. And fortunately, it's not often like that in our game but sometimes it happens."

Prior to his arrival on the pitch, Leeds gave the Emirates crowd much to be frustrated about. Although they were not playing a typical first team, the starting line-up still should have proved strong enough to overturn the 8th place Championship side.

Leeds were resolute in their 4-1-4-1 system, and competently held-off the Londoners with an ease that suggested a return to the Premier League would not be so implausable after all. Of course, Arsenal’s impotence in front of goal was not helped by the out-of-form finishers, Andrei Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh – the latter due to leave for the African Cup of Nations, with Morocco. Perhaps gratefully, for Arsenal fans.

Indeed, the lingering deadlock was merely to exacerbate the significance of Henry’s arrival onto the pitch – his presence on the bench already enough to animate the fervent Gunners faithful. He returned in the 68th minute of this FA Cup third round tie, after a five-year absence from Arsenal, and just ten minutes later had scored the deciding goal to lead his team into a fourth round encounter with Aston Villa.

Tinie Tempah’s ‘Written in the Stars’ may accompany Sky Sports’ football coverage, but according to Leeds boss Simon Grayson, this 90-minutes was ‘written in the stars’ just for Thierry Henry.

It’s easy to believe, having witnessed a classic Henry goal, reminiscent of his glorious ‘Invincible’ days: coming in from the left, beating the offside, and sliding a right-footed cross across the ‘keeper, (this time, Andy Longeran).

The Emirates was electrified.

For those of you that believe in fate – especially in competitions like the FA Cup – how about these twelve-related stats? Thierry Henry scored his 12th goal in 12 appearances against Leeds, with 12 minutes remaining, wearing the number 12 shirt in the year 2012.

Or perhaps it’s all just a beautiful coincidence for Arsenal fans?

Either way, the Gunners are awaiting Aston Villa in round four, and Leeds are back to focussing on another promotion campaign.

Let the FA Cup dreams continue!

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