Arsenal . . . . . .0
IT IS not an emotion that comes easily to every football supporter, but the inclination was to feel sorry for Arsenal last night. For 89 minutes they were the better team at Elland Road, but they lost to the sort of goal that is normally conceded by teams with a less flinty image than the North London misers.
Noel Whelan scored with the match heading towards injury time with a shot that spoke volumes for the 19-year- old's audacity but rather less for the aplomb of David Seaman, whose attempt to save would have been comical in less serious circumstances. Being beaten from 35 yards has not happened many times to the Arsenal goalkeeper, but on this occasion he managed to slip, recover and then fall over before the ball bounced into the net.
John Lukic, the Leeds goalkeeper, kicked down field and the danger seemed to have evaporated when an Arsenal header pushed the ball into midfield. Whelan, though, had other ideas. After he eluded Tony Adams with a neat turn, he shot powerfully but speculatively. Seaman should have saved, but no one could account for the brush with the bizarre that befell him.
Should was the apt word all round for the Gunners, who trained their sights on goal on numerous occasions but were frustrated either by bad luck or worse shooting. Ian Wright, alone, could have had five goals but the closest he came was with a 29th-minute shot from 20 yards that hit the Leeds bar.
'That's one of the best performances we've ever produced at Elland Road,' George Graham, the Arsenal manager said. 'We played well until it came to the last third of the pitch, where we lacked sparkle. We created numerous half- chances and normally we'd expect to take a couple of them.'
Even with the match in injury time fate seemed determined to smirk at Graham. With Arsenal pouring forward for an equaliser, Paul Merson hit a good shot from eight yards that appeared to be heading for the bottom corner, only for John Lukic to make the save of the night.
To compound a night of frustration for the visitors, Steve Bould hurt a thigh muscle making a tackle on David White. The injury will be examined properly this morning, but the extent of his limp afterwards did not encourage optimism that he will make a speedy recovery.
The writing was probably being scrawled on the Arsenal brickwork as soon as the second minute, when Wright crossed with such guile that Gary Kelly was deceived into turning his headed clearance on to the bar. A Leeds mistake, Arsenal misfortune: it summed up the evening.
The first half was dominated by Arsenal to an extent that Howard Wilkinson gave his charges a verbal rocket at half-time. Phil Masinga, a replacement for the injured Brian Deane, tested Seaman with two headers but, that apart, Leeds were toothless and it required a managerial rant to provoke a change.
Gary McAllister's 53rd- minute shot that flew dangerously close heralded the shift in power and Gary Speed grazed the bar with nine minutes remaining, but a scoreless match seemed the most likely outcome until Whelan's intervention.
'He's a bit like Ian Wright,' Wilkinson said, 'and if he ever believed in himself he could become some player. In practice he's full of scissor-kicks and 30- yard shots, but this is the first time he's ever shown it in the Premiership.'
Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Kelly, Palmer, Wetherall, Worthington; White, McAllister, Speed, Strachan (Whelan, 45); Masinga, Wallace. Substitutes not used: Pemberton, Beeney (gk).
Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Bould (Keown, 62), Winterburn; Campbell, Schwarz, Jensen, Merson; Wright, Smith. Substitutes not used: Davis, Bartram (gk).
Referee: R Dilkes (Mossley, Lancashire).
Yesterday's results, page 47
Ince fined, page 46