Gunners survive Leeds scare


LONDON, January 8- Arsenal needed a last-gasp penalty from captain Cesc Fabregas to snatch a dramatic 1-1 draw with Leeds on Saturday as the Championship outfit were denied a famous FA Cup third round upset.Fabregas blasted home a nerveless spot-kick in the 90th minute after Leeds defender Ben Parker had tugged Theo Walcott off balance to cancel out a Leeds penalty from Robert Snodgrass.

Arsenal could have snatched victory in injury time only for Leeds keeper Kasper Schmeichel to pull off a stunning save from a Denilson shot.

Nicklas Bendtner also pulled a golden opportunity wide as Arsenal rallied furiously for the goal which would allow them to avoid a replay at Elland Road.

"It was a very difficult game," Fabregas told ITV. "We started too sloppy.

"We didn’t pass the ball well enough and quick enough and they got confidence from that and scored a penalty which when you are professional footballer you cannot give away. Too easy.

"We managed in the last 30 minutes to put them under a lot of pressure. Now we have to go to Leeds and play our hearts out."

For long periods it looked as if Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger would pay the price for fielding an under-strength side which saw Samir Nasri, Robin van Persie and Jack Wilshere omitted from his matchday squad while Walcott and Fabregas were left on the bench.

After weathering a first-half onslaught, Leeds – who stunned Manchester United at the same stage of the competition last year – took the lead with a penalty of their own on 54 minutes, Snodgrass rifling in the spot-kick after Denilson had upended Max Gradel in the area.

Marouane Chamakh might have levelled moments later only for Leeds defender Andy O’Brien to get a vital touch to deny the Moroccan international a free header from six yards out.

As Arsenal chased the game, Wenger swiftly brought on Walcott and Fabregas and both players immediately caused problems for Leeds.

Arsenal thought they had been awarded a penalty in the final minutes when referee Phil Dowd appeared to point to the spot after what looked like a foul on Walcott inside the area.

However the Gunners players were furious when the referee’s assistant flagged for offside against Bendtner even though replays showed he was clearly onside when the offending challenge on Walcott was made.

Arsenal got their reward moments later however when Walcott surged into the box only to be pulled back by Parker, allowing Fabregas to step up and drive in the equaliser.