By Chris Harris
"We would love to make history," said Arsène Wenger before Arsenal embarked on their quest for a fourth straight FA Cup final appearance. Well, his team remain on course to do just that after another 4-1 win against Leeds at Elland Road.
No team has won this competition three years in succession since 1886 - the year Arsenal were formed. The Gunners are one step closing to emulating Blackburn, and The Wanderers before them, after goals from Thierry Henry, Edu, Robert Pires and Kolo Toure put them in the hat for the fourth round.
Arsenal had won 4-1 on their previous two visits to Elland Road and, although the result was the same, Leeds made the Gunners work much harder for their victory. Caretaker manager Eddie Gray has instilled spirit and discipline into Leeds and a shock looked distinctly possible after the hosts took an early lead.
It was a bizarre goal. Sol Campbell found Jens Lehmann with an innocuous backpass but the goalkeeper's first touch deserted him and his attempted clearance ricocheted off Mark Viduka and flew into the net.
Suddenly Arsenal were under the cosh but they weathered the storm and ultimately turned the game on its head with their attractive brand of patient but potent passing.
Wenger acknowledged before the game that Henry "needed a breather". He planned to rest his star striker and play Jeremie Aliadiere instead but the youngster was taken ill so Henry took his place in the team. Once again, he marked his presence with a priceless contribution.
First, Henry showed wonderful technique to volley Freddie Ljungberg's right-wing cross past Paul Robinson after 26 minutes. Seven minutes later he turned provider, finding space on the left and arrowing a low cross towards Edu, who slid in to steer the ball past the Leeds goalkeeper.
Late goals from Pires and Toure gave the scoreline a flattering look but Arsenal deserve plenty of credit for soaking up the best Leeds could offer and hitting them hard on the counter-attack.
Perhaps it was no surprise that Arsenal took time to get going after Wenger shuffled his pack for this tricky looking tie. The Arsenal manager made six changes from the team which started the 1-0 win at Southampton last Monday.
Ashley Cole returned from suspension to replace Gael Clichy at left-back with Martin Keown and Lauren also drafted into the back four in place of Pascal Cygan and Kolo Toure.
Like Toure, Ray Parlour and Robert Pires also dropped to the bench with Edu and Gilberto coming into the Arsenal midfield. Finally, Kanu replaced Dennis Bergkamp up front.
Arsenal had to weather an early storm on their last visit to Elland Road. On that occasion the Gunners simply picked off their opponents on the break but Leeds have improved since Gray took charge.
The new manager has made changes to his personnel and formation, ditching the 4-4-2 which saw Leeds ship so many goals early in the season and instead deploying a 4-5-1 formation.
It paid dividends early on. Leeds' five-man midfield protected their defence and pressed Arsenal hard while wingers Alan Smith and James Milner got forward to support lone striker Viduka.
Leeds' industry knocked Arsenal out of their stride, forcing a few passing errors to rapturous acclaim from the home fans. Soon, the Elland Road faithful had a goal to cheer after Lehmann's error.
Arsenal were rocked back and another error almost cost them a two-goal deficit after 18 minutes. Milner, celebrating his 18th birthday, capitalised on a slip by Martin Keown and fired in a low shot which allowed Lehmann to redeem himself.
Aside from that low save at his near post, Lehmann had a number of crosses to deal with. He flapped at one, a corner from Ian Harte, but gained confidence with a fine claim from a Milner effort from the other side.
Arsenal had barely registered a goal threat at that point but, slowly, their patient passing game began to reap rewards and the game turned on its head. Henry had already gone close with a left-foot volley from Edu's cross. With 26 minutes on the clock he made no mistake with his other foot after Ljungberg sped down the right and sent over a perfect delivery.
Within seven minutes Arsenal were ahead and once again Henry was an integral figure with a pinpoint low cross which Edu guided past Robinson in the Leeds goal.
You could forgive Leeds for feeling deflated after their bright start, and Arsenal could have been out of sight after a flurry of chances at the start of the second half.
A spell of possession inside the Leeds half ended with Kanu twisting, turning and setting up Edu, who saw his low shot kicked off the line with Robinson beaten.
A minute later Henry saw his free-kick deflected over the bar and Campbell's thumping header was also just off target after Edu's corner.
Leeds were still a threat. Eirik Bakke's excellent low cross forced Keown to clear inside his own six-yard box with Dominic Matteo lurking, but Lehmann was hardly called into action after the break.
Robinson was by far the busier 'keeper and produced a fine save to deny Kanu after 64 minutes. Cole's persistence inside the penalty area saw the ball drop to Kanu and his fierce shot was pushed away by Robinson.
Ljungberg almost extended Arsenal's lead, charging in to meet an Henry cross only to see Michael Duberry nick the ball off his toe. The Swede was also thwarted in a one-on-one with Robinson.
Wenger made a triple substitution with Wednesday's game at Everton in mind. Parlour, Toure and Pires came off the bench and it was the latter who hammered the final nail in Leeds' FA Cup coffin with a low finish from Henry's pass.
There was still time for Toure to score his first goal of the season from close range and give the scoreline a familiar look.
|Henry volleys home our opener||Our French striker celebrates his goal|
|Edu slides in number two||Gilberto congratulates his fellow countryman|
|Pires sidefoots number three||Toure rounds off a great performance with number four|
|Mark Viduka and Martin Keown battle for the ball|
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|The players celebrate Thierry Henry's equalising goal|
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