Wenger relieved to avoid FA Cup exit
Arsenal 1 Leeds 1
Arsene Wenger admitted it would have been a real "shocker" had Arsenal crashed out of the FA Cup today as a last-minute penalty from captain Cesc Fabregas denied npower Championship side Leeds a famous victory at Emirates Stadium.
It had looked as if the Gunners were set for a third-round exit for the first time since 1996 after Robert Snodgrass' penalty early in the second half.
However, with just moments remaining, substitute Theo Walcott was tugged back by Ben Parker, and Fabregas stepped up to blast the spot-kick past Kasper Schmeichel, who had been in superb form.
"I must say at first that it was a very difficult game because it was a real cup game and Leeds were up for it, they played well," said Wenger.
"It was the kind of game where you felt that it was important not to go 1-0 down.
"When we were 1-0 down I felt that Wojciech [Szczesny] kept us in the game with a good save from [Luciano] Becchio's header.
"We looked like we would come back, but we were short of time and it was important to keep the momentum and not to go out today because that would have been a shocker."
Wenger continued: "Even when we equalised we still had three chances at 1-1, but we couldn't take them.
"At least we are still in the Cup and hopefully we can do it at Leeds."
With a two-legged Carling Cup semi-final ahead, and also fighting for the Barclays Premier League ahead of the resumption of European action against Barcelona, Wenger will not have wanted to add another fixture to their congested schedule.
However, after again failing to make the most of first-half chances, notably through Andrey Arshavin who failed to convert when clean in on goal after 11 minutes, the final outcome could have been much worse.
"It was not exactly the wish I had before the game but it was the second worst wish," said Wenger, who had made some nine changes from the team which drew 0-0 with Manchester City. "The worst would have been to go out.
"We go to Ipswich on Wednesday, we play West Ham on Saturday and then the replay of the FA Cup is after that.
"It is a good warning that we got today, but we knew before the game that Leeds went to Old Trafford last year and won, and they had a draw at Tottenham.
"Overall this team have belief in that competition, from last year certainly.
"They did very well, very aggressive but in a good way, not a negative way, they closed us down everywhere and we had problems to pass through their lines.
"They were dangerous as well and it was important for us not to give a goal away, but we did.
"Leeds were well organised, they were quickly on us and maybe our game was not quick enough to get out of their pressure."
Simon Grayson felt his npower Championship promotion chasers should take "immense pride" from their efforts.
"Obviously it is tinged with a bit of disappointment because we were minutes away from pulling off a famous result today," he said.
"I said to the players beforehand to just do themselves and the fans proud and they have walked off the pitch having done that.
"Individuals have done well but any success we have had in the past and will do in the future is about us as a team collectively.
"Arsenal are a fantastic football club and it is testament to our players they have had to bring on Fabregas and Walcott to try to win the game.
"There are many teams who come here and have been on the end of a hiding. We have done well for ourselves and will approach the replay with the same attitude."
Grayson, however, stressed gaining promotion to the Premier League remained the priority.
"The players have not taken their eyes off the ball since the draw was made," he said.
"I said before the most important game out of the two coming up was Scunthorpe - and that is still the case now, because that is our bread and butter."
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