Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson scored early in the second half to secure a 1-0 win over battling Championship leaders Leeds United in the FA Cup third round at The Emirates on Monday.
Nelson put a near full-strength home side ahead in the 55th minute, scrappily side-footing the ball into the net after the Leeds defence was caught out by an Alexandre Lacazette cross.
Arsenal, who have won the world’s oldest cup competition a record 13 times — but lost to Leeds in the 1972 final — visit fellow Premier League side Bournemouth in the fourth round.
Leeds had taken the game to Arsenal straight from the whistle, pushing forward and blasting 11 shots on goal to the hosts’ one in the first 25 minutes alone.
They dominated possession and striker Patrick Bamford was unlucky not to score after 15 minutes when he collected the ball from Jack Harrison but curled his close-range shot onto the bar.
Arsenal by contrast looked a shadow of the side who beat Manchester United 2-0 in the Premier League on New Year’s Day.
But Mikel Arteta’s side looked a different team in the second half, with Lacazette whipping an early free-kick off the bar and David Luiz going close before Nelson struck.
“Leeds are a great team and they pressed us, we didn’t expect it. We got the goal in the end and that is the most important thing,” said Nelson.
“This will give us confidence to go forward.”
Lacazette said Arteta gave the players a firm talking to at halftime, although the manager made it sound less daunting.
“Now I’m really pleased but we saw two different teams from the first to second half. I tried to tell them exactly what they were going to face and after 32 minutes we’d won one duel,” he said.
“We changed our attitude, desire and organisation at halftime and then we were completely different. It was good for my players to learn and to suffer on the pitch.”
Both sides fielded second-string keepers — with Emiliano Martinez coming in for Arsenal and Illan Meslier for leeds — and the home side were missing striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang due to illness, but otherwise they fielded strong lineups.