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THIRD ACT

Can Leeds make it a hat-trick of memorable FA Cup Third Round classics?

Arsenal host Leeds on Monday night in the FA Cup Third Round and the nostalgia is palpable.

In 2012, at the same stage of the competition, this fixture provided one of the most memorable moments of the last decade.

The game was lacking as a spectacle for 70 minutes as the hosts struggled to pierce the Championship side’s deep defence.

Remember what happened next?

Jamie McPhilimey - The Sun
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Remember what happened next?

The Gunners required a 90th-minute Cesc Fabregas penalty to prevent a Leeds upset at the Emirates the year prior (they won the replay at Elland Road 3-1) and so Arsene Wenger was wary of the Whites’ reluctance to fold without resistance.

In need of inspiration, the Frenchman called upon his compatriot, Thierry Henry.

Arsenal’s all-time top scorer had just rejoined the club on a two-month loan from New York Red Bulls and was greeted onto the pitch with a hero’s ovation from the home fans.

The visiting fans bullishly welcomed Henry with a chorus of ‘WHO ARE YA? WHO ARE YA?’ but they would have been more aware of the legendary forward’s prolific scoring record against Leeds than anyone.

Ten minutes later, Henry latched onto an Alex Song pass in a familiar position before calmly opening his body to stroke the ball into the bottom corner.

At 34 years old, it was a finish reminiscent of his younger self’s trademark.

Unforgettable

Times Newspapers Ltd
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Unforgettable

The celebration remains one of the loudest in Emirates history as the home fans delighted in their hero’s glorious return.

Henry was equally emotional as he soaked up the adulation before running to embrace Wenger.

On the surface, a 1-0 win for a top Premier League side against a Championship club is an unremarkable result, but the narrative of the lone goal makes it one of the most memorable fixtures in the recent history of the FA Cup.

Homecoming

Times Newspapers Ltd
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Homecoming

Leeds were no strangers to Third Round headlines by 2012.

In 2010 they beat Man United 1-0 in what was the first meeting between the two fierce rivals since the Yorkshire club were relegated from the Premier League in 2004.

9,000 Leeds fans packed the away end at Old Trafford to watch Jermaine Beckford squeeze his finish past Tomasz Kuszczak in the 19th minute.

Magic of the Cup™

Getty Images - Getty
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Magic of the Cup™

Sir Alex Ferguson had rotated his squad but, aware of what the rivalry means the fans, he started with Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov up front.

But the superstar strikers were frustrated by the visitors who harnessed the energy emitted by their fans to remain combative for the full 90 minutes.

Casper Ankergren denied Rooney with a smothering save in stoppage time to complete the upset.

Leeds were in League One at the time and had endured years of consecutive misery after being ravaged by financial mismanagement.

Victory at Old Trafford represented a momentary return to happier times and an enduring FA Cup memory.

War of the Roses

News Group Newspapers Ltd
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War of the Roses

With Leeds top of the Championship under the influential Marcelo Bielsa and Arsenal under refreshing new management, all the elements are there for the Whites to rediscover the box-office FA Cup Third Round habit they had at the start of the last decade.

But will they be victors or losers?


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