Football: Wallace breaks the stalemate

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The Independent Online
Arsenal 0 Leeds United 1

The glory went unexpectedly to Leeds, the grief to Arsenal last night as George Graham returned in triumph to the club who sacked him two years ago this month.

An early goal by Rod Wallace, protected by an outstanding goalkeeping display from Nigel Martyn, earned Leeds a fifth-round home tie against Portsmouth.

In a match that was as passionate as Saturday's stalemate between the sides had been plain, Leeds became the first English visitors to win at Highbury for more than a year. It was their first victory over Arsenal in 10 FA Cup matches since beating them in the 1972 final.

Revenge was all the sweeter for the Leeds manager given the memory of his last trip to the marble halls. In October, Arsenal overwhelmed Leeds with three goals in the opening 11 minutes. Graham vowed things would be different next time, and he was as good as his word.

True to character, he is building from the back; since that autumn embarrassment, Leeds have now kept 12 clean sheets in 17 games.

Scoring goals has proved rather more problematic, but Leeds needed only one opportunity this time. It arrived, with no little irony, in the 11th minute. Ian Harte, dropped in the wake of their last visit to Highbury but recalled in place of flu victim Lucas Radebe, caught Arsenal's defence square with a lofted pass.

Wallace, sensing the danger quicker than David Seaman, snaked out his right foot, only for his shot to roll against the post. When it came back, he lashed it high into the net with his left.

For a while it was a game of tactical cat and mouse between Graham and Arsene Wenger. The former delegated Gary Kelly to man-mark Paul Merson, which severely restricted Arsenal's invention. Wenger eventually responded by sending John Hartson into attack, and pulling Merson deeper, though by then their best openings had come and gone.

On the half hour, Ian Wright powered in a header from five yards which Martyn, his one-time Crystal Palace colleague, somehow kept out. When the pressure intensified, the Leeds keeper dumbfounded Merson by clambering to his feet after blocking a Wright effort to parry a vicious follow-up.

The siege continued after half-time, with Hartson announcing his arrival by heading a Merson free-kick against the outside of the post. Patrick Vieira also unleashed a volley which skimmed the bar, an escape which signalled a period of relative calm for Leeds.

"They played into our hands by bringing on Hartson," Graham said. "They started playing the ball long and the last half hour was pretty easy. This still isn't my team, no way, but I thought we out played them tactically."

Graham singled out Gunnar Halle, who had kept Wright under wraps, as his man-of-the-match, though he surely meant "after Martyn". He added: "I'm astounded Nigel isn't in the England squad. I think David Seaman is No1 and he's No 2."

Glenn Hoddle, who did not rate the Cornishman among his top four when naming the squad to face Italy, may be tempted to revise his opinion after witnessing Martyn's heroics.

On a less savoury note, there was a spat between Vieira and David O'Leary, an Arsenal legend and now assistant manager at Elland Road, while Wright and Harte also exchanged pleasantries. Nothing, however, could wipe the smile off Graham's face.

Arsenal (3-5-1-1): Seaman; Keown, Adams, Bould; Dixon, Parlour, Vieira, Hughes (Hartson, h-t), Morrow; Merson; Wright. Substitutes not used: Rose, Lukic (gk).

Leeds United (3-5-2): Martyn; Halle, Molenaar, Kelly; Harte, Bowyer (Wetherall, 64), Palmer, Jackson, Dorigo; Wallace (Rush, 78), Deane. Substitute not used: Beeney (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland, Dorset).

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