Orient came into this match having already beaten Championship sides Norwich and Swansea, and in the knowledge that of they could upset the apple cart even further against Arsenal, they would be making the trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-final.
The League One side will have been buoyed by the fact that Arsenal had only managed to overcome Huddersfield Town 2-1 in the last round at the Emirates, and in the knowledge that there is recent precedent for topflight clubs playing poorly on less than perfect pitches; take Manchester City’s draw away at Notts County in the last round.
Even with the supposed advantage of the pitch, playing in front of their home fans, and having beaten clubs higher up the football league in the last two rounds, Orient struggled to find their feet in the match as Arsenal, having beaten Barcelona in the week, did not wish to slip up at Brisbane Road.
The Gunners strangled the home side of possession early on, however they could not take advantage as Nicklas Bendtner, Andrey Arshavin, and Marouane Chamakh all blazed wide of the goal.
Arsene Wenger’s side continued to press, forcing the Orient players further back toward their own goal. This made the task at hand harder for Arsenal however as they were confronted with a wall of players which they would have to successfully negotiate if they were to come away with the win.
Russell Slade’s side defended everything that the Premier League outfit threw at them however, first Charlie Daniel blocked a Tomas Rosicky shot, before Jamie Jones was finally called into action in the O’s goal as he saved from Arshavin.
The former Premier League and FA Cup winners were beginning to get frustrated by the defensive tactics of the League One side, as for all the possession they were allowed, much of it came in slow build up play in front of the red wall that was the Orient eleven.
The deadlock was finally broken seven minutes into to second half however. Arsenal, feeling that a change of tactic was required to break down a resolute Orient side, looked to cross the ball into the area instead of play to feet. This paid of almost immediately as Rosicky scored a goal as uncharacteristic of his side as it is for him to score at all these days. Bendtner fired in a low cross from the right side of the box and the Czech playmaker found enough room to direct a header into the bottom left corner of Jones’ goal.
Where it might have been expected that the side currently lying in second in the Premier League would be spurred on to finish the tie there and then, they were unable to do so as Orient continued to frustrate them as the little club lying in 11th in the third tier of English football finally began to find their feet in the match.
Arsenal were continuing to miss attempts on goal and that began to tell, Denilson received a booking for unsporting behaviour as the home crowd sensed that there may be a way back into the match. As time seemed to be beginning to run out for the O’s, the ball fell to Jonathan Tehoue with just two minutes remaining and the Frenchman, who had come on just after the hour, skated past Bacary Sagna and Sebastien Squillaci before firing under Manuel Almunia to draw his club level.
Arsenal had little time left to find a winner and they could not do so, failing, as they had done throughout the match, to find the target for a second time.
Leyton Orient’s players and fans now face the trip of a lifetime as they make the short trip across London to the Emirates Stadium for an FA Cup fifth round replay, the winners of which will face Manchester United at Old Trafford. Based on the performances of the sides in this match however, United may not be too sure of whom they would prefer to meet next.
Match of the Weekend Contenders
Bath 38-8 Northampton: Bath continued their good run of form as they brushed aside a Saints side that appeared to be missing England winger Chris Ashton more than ever. Asthon’s England understudy Matt Banahan ran in a hattrick of tries alongside further scores from Matt Carraro and Sam Vesty, while Olly Barkley kicked all five conversions and a penalty. Northampton managed only a late try from Greig Tonks and a Stephen Myler penalty, however it was far little too late for them in this match at the Rec.
Genoa 4-3 Roma: Roma appeared to be flying as defenders Philippe Mexes and Nicolas Burdisso put the away side up before the break. Roma added to their lead on 51 minutes captain Francesco Totti, however just two minutes later Rodrigo Palacio pulled one back for Genoa. Two goals from Alberto Paloschi either side of a second from Palacio in just 17 minutes saw Genoa snatch victory with just five minutes remaining.