Thierry Henry marked his Arsenal return in stunning fashion as he netted a 78th minute winner to send The Gunners through to the FA Cup fourth round at the expense of Leeds United at The Emirates Stadium.
Henry confirmed his return to the club where he netted 226 career goals last week, and upon his introduction with 22 minutes left in a tight and tense cup-tie, he took centre stage.
After breaking free inside the penalty area, Alex Song’s pass found the 34-year-old, who duly slid the ball past Andy Lonergan.
The finish not only secured Arsene Wenger’s side a fourth round date with Aston Villa, but it gives the boss reason to believe Henry can play more than just a bit part role in his second spell at the club.
Arsenal’s supporters were made to wait for a sight of Henry, as the New York Red Bulls loanee started from the bench against a Leeds side who were looking to avenge their defeat at the same stage of the FA Cup last season.
Without the scorer from last term’s corresponding fixture, Roberto Snodgrass, in their ranks and Jonny Howson also sidelined, a loanee of their own, Tottenham Hotspur’s Andros Townsend spearheaded their attempts to create the shock of the third round.
The early stages saw the club’s inconsistent winger Andrey Arshavin twice fire over the bar when well placed, before Sebastien Squillaci’s back post header drifted wide.
Deploying a five-man midfield, Leeds’ role in the piece was more about containing than taking the game to the Premier League outfit, but they had an opportunity to take an unlikely lead mid-way through the first-half, but Luciano Becchio’s blast flew harmlessly over.
Injury to Francis Cocquelin further swelled the frustration inside the Emirates, a home crowd that were becoming agitated, while their desire to see a glimpse of Henry was growing with every misplaced pass and wayward effort on goal.
After the interval, Arsenal’s dominance in possession continued, but they found Leeds’ defence as solid as it had been all evening.
When breached, it required the best of Lonergan to keep the scores level, the stopper palming away Mikel Arteta’s effort, before a rare mistake from Mika Vayrynen allow Arshavin in, but the presence of Lonergan forced the Russian to skew wide.
The home faithful got their wish with a quarter of the game remaining, as Henry, returning five years after making his last appearance for the club, replaced Marouane Chamakh.
With the stage set, Henry duly obliged, with the decisive winner just 12 minutes from the end.
After Song got free, his threaded pass found the unmarked Henry in the left channel of the penalty area, the club’s record goalscorer then found the customary shape on the ball that he so often had during his eight-year career, as he tucked the ball beyond Lonergan.
Late chances fell the way of substitutes Ross McCormack and Mikael Forssell, but nothing was to ruin Henry’s day, who rolled back the years to yet again prove to be the difference.
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