Arsenal’s cup struggles against lower league opposition continued as they conceded a late equaliser to Leyton Orient at the Matchroom Stadium. After looking relatively serene, especially in the second-half, Arsenal were stung by a stunning goal from substitute Jonathan Tehoue as the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

1st Half

Orient were happy to allow Arsenal to have the bulk of possession, while holding a deep line on the edge of their penalty area. They kept the Gunners at bay, mainly due to Andrey Arshavin and Nicklas Bendtner looking to cut inside from their wide starting positions. This meant that Arsenal were very narrow, with the only width coming from their full-backs. But these moments were few and far between with Dean Cox keeping Bacary Sagna on a tight rein. On the other side, Kieran Gibbs seemed reluctant to attack. On the one occasion he did get forward, he set up the chance of the half for the ineffectual Marouane Chamakh, who scuffed his shot wide.

2nd Half

As expected, Arsenal continued to try and pass their way through the Orient rearguard in the second-half, finally breaking the deadlock after 53 minutes. Tomas Rosicky headed in his first goal in 43 matches, capitalising on some good work from Bendtner. With the game now following its expected script, Arsenal were content to keep possession and run down the clock. Rosicky forced Orient keeper Jamie Jones into action again in the half, as he made a fine save from point blank range to keep the home side in the tie.

The game’s key period occurred in the 86th minute. As the lively Arshavin raced into the penalty area, he was at a tight angle but left with no support, the Russian unleashed a fine effort that clipped the outside of the post. Initially it seemed academic but a minute later, Tehoue secured a lucrative replay for Orient after skipping away from both Gibbs and the hitherto impressive Ignasi Miquel and rifled his shot through Manuel Almunia’s legs to send the Brisbane Road fans into ecstasy.

Conclusion

In the midst of the headlines surrounding Orient’s day in the sun, it’s easily forgotten what a sterile game this was. Arsenal’s second string once again showed their inability to seize the initiative in games. However, there were good performances from Alex Song (the game’s star performer), Arshavin, Sagna and Miquel, who looked reasonably assured on his debut and may feature again in the future.

With West Ham moving in on Orient’s “patch”, and a replay on the way at The Emirates, Orient have been at the forefront of the minds of people who love an underdog story in football. But unlike Crawley Town on Saturday, Orient gave a pretty limp display. They worked hard when defending, but until Tehoue’s arrival, they offered next to nothing going forward, with manager Russell Slade admitting as much after the game.

For a side that has impressed in League 1 this season, and aspires to play progressive football, Orient were frankly insipid. Let this not come across as sour grapes as credit must be given for them taking their chance when it came along. While the result should be lauded, and will probably sustain the club for the next few years, the fact remains that it was nothing more than a smash and grab job. If they give a similar performance in the replay on Wednesday week, then the East Londoners could be on the wrong end of a hiding.

As for Arsenal, their marathon season continues apace. If the Gunners are to end their season with a trophy, they will definitely have earned it.

ARSENAL (4-2-3-1)

Almunia - 6, Sagna - 7, Squillaci - 6, Miquel - 7, Gibbs - 5, Denilson - 6, SONG - 7, Bendtner - 6, Rosicky - 6, Arshavin - 7, Chamakh - 4



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Comments  

0 #1 archwaygunner 2011-02-21 23:10
Can't blame Almoonia for being a bit rusty.
I'm not a fan but let's face it no keeper is going to save many one-for-ones like that and imo he's a good shot-stopper, not quite so good for reaction saves. If Big-Mouth Bentdtner had looked up and made the right pass a couple of times it wouldn't have mattered.