Arsenal cruise past Leeds
November 02 , 2003
Leeds 1 Arsenal 4
Leeds competed manfully and enjoyed a lot of possession but had no answer to the visitor's blistering attacking prowess.
Thierry Henry had numerous chances to complete his hat-trick but had to settle for a brace, while Robert Pires and Gilberto Silva also got on the scoresheet.
Alan Smith made it 4-1 after 63 minutes but Arsenal comfortably held on to bolster their position at the top of the Premiership and condemn Leeds to their fourth successive defeat.
Peter Reid's team have lost every game since the beleaguered manager held on to his job following a crisis meeting with chairman Professor John McKenzie.
Leeds, without Mark Viduka who was dropped for disciplinary reasons, enjoyed more of the ball in the opening 15 minutes and almost made a perfect start through Lamine Sakho, but his shot was well saved by Jens Lehmann.
And the home team's early endeavour was quickly unravelled by a blistering break from the Gunners, who fielded a totally different team from the side that scraped past Rotherham in the Carling Cup in midweek.
Henry latched onto Ashley Cole's long punt up-field and, leaving the home backline trailing in his wake, charged towards Paul Robinson's goal before slipping the ball past the Leeds goalkeeper with his right foot.
Arsenal hit Leeds on the break again after 17 minutes, Dennis Bergkamp setting Freddie Ljungberg free down the right-hand side.
The Swede tried to pick out Silva, but the ball ran to Pires, who side-footed home with his first touch.
Leeds' defensive frailties were exposed again before the break, Henry converting from short range after Bergkamp's shot rebounded off the post.
And Henry should have registered his hat-trick in first-half injury time but smashed the ball over the Leeds crossbar from 10 yards.
More shambolic marking led to Arsenal's fourth.
Leeds started the second half with purpose, but Peter Reid's half-time team-talk was rendered meaningless when Silva was left unmarked to slot home Pires' cross.
Salomon Olembe almost pulled one back, but his shot was saved by Lehmann.
But Leeds' determination was eventually rewarded, the irrepressible Smith deftly flicking 16-year-old Aaron Lennon's cross past Lehmann.
Smith almost fuelled the crowd's hopes of a dramatic comeback but his strike crashed against the crossbar and rebounded to safety.
And Arsenal were soon causing the Leeds defence more problems.
Henry had another golden opportunity to complete his hat-trick but managed to pick out Ray Parlour on the Leeds goalline, while substitute Jeremie Aliadiere headed over from five yards.