ARSENAL 2-0 LEEDS UNITED: Calum Chambers and Eddie Nketiah found the net in the second half to ensure Mikel Arteta’s men made their way into the Carabao Cup quarter-final
Supersub Calum Chambers – three consecutive words you won’t have read very often – sprang from the bench like a caped crusader.
And as Arsenal’s unlikely hero broke Leeds’ resistance with his first touch, 23 seconds after replacing the injured Ben White, he lit the Gunners’ path towards the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
At 26, Chambers has a great future behind him seven years after he became a £16million teenager at the Emirates.
But his first goal since September 2019 brought the house down – and brought the curtain down on another worrying defeat for toothless Leeds.
Fifty seasons down the track from the centenary FA Cup final, this fixture will always tug at the heart-strings at both ends of the M1.
Memories of Allan Clarke’s diving header and Mick Jones having to be helped up Wembley’s 39 steps by Norman Hunter after dislocating his elbow are enshrined in Yorkshire legend.
But Leeds have fallen short of godfather Don Revie’s standards this season, and head coach Marcelo Bielsa’s decision to play a strong hand looked more like a cry for help than El Loco flexing his muscles.
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Rarely, if ever, has a trip to Norwich loomed larger than Bielsa’s excursion to East Anglia this weekend, when defeat would make the Premier League table read like a threatening letter.
Backed by 5,000 travelling emissaries from the land of reet grand, the Leeds contingent added considerably to an atmosphere which had the air of a half-term outing in north London.
It is fair to say Arsenal’s recovery, after a woeful start, has been carried by their younger players while some of their more experienced core should have been reported to Scotland Yard’s missing persons bureau.
It is also fair to say this competition is one of only two trophies the Gunners can hope to lift this season.
While the neighbours down the Seven Sisters Road have a tinpot Thursday night competition in Europe to exercise their reserves, Arteta’s options for keeping his squad makeweights happy were limited at the outset.
Nine changes, when there’s a cup to be won, was a gamble – but manager Mikel Arteta was vindicated for rolling the dice.
For 55 minutes, despite all their frisky enthusiasm, Arsenal made little headway in the final third.
Recalled keeper Bernd Leno, making his first start in five weeks after losing the No.1 spot to Aaron Ramsdale, was required to make a sharp low save to deny Jack Harrison.
But when £50million defender White – who spent an outstanding season on loan at Elland Road two years ago – was forced to retire hurt 10 minutes after the break, it paved the way for Chambers to make his mark in dramatic fashion.
Barely five seconds after joining the fray, Chambers smuggled his header over the line from Nicolas Pepe’s knock-back before Leeds keeper Illan Meslier could shovel it away.
Referee Andre Marriner did not signal a goal immediately, but eventually he received the correct advice – through his watch or earpiece – and Chambers raced straight to the Arsenal bench to celebrate.
Then League Cup specialist Eddie Nketiah, who has scored seven goals in eight appearances in the competition, seized on Liam Cooper’s feeble header and skipped round Meslier to make it 2-0 after 69 minutes.