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Arsenal 2 - 1 Huddersfield: FA Cup match report

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1 - 0 Nicklas Bendtner 26'
1 - 1 Alan Lee 66'
2 - 1 Cesc Fabregas PK 86'

Arsenal managed to overcome an Alan Lee equalizer to defeat Huddersfield Town today in the FA Cup fourth round despite a mediocre performance.  Nicklas Bendtner's 26th minute strike, in via a generous deflection from Terriers defender Peter Clarke, was canceled out when Alan Lee headed home from a free kick midway through the second half.  Cesc Fabregas, on in place of Abou Diaby, converted a late penalty after referee Mark Clattenberg deemed Jamie McCombe had fouled Bendtner in the penalty area.

In what is becoming typical Arsenal style, the home side squandered numerous early chances.  Andrei Arshavin launched a rocket well over the crossbar from 18 yards after three minutes, and nine minutes later Bendtner bundled the ball wide of the post after Arshavin laid a lovely cross in the forward's path.

Arshavin looked lively, if not totally back to his sharpness of 2009, as the first half moved forward.  Cutting in from the left, he had a shot saved by Ian Bennett and then hit the post with another low effort a minute later.  Sebastien Squillaci gave the ball away and Huddersfield nearly capitalized, heading wide from the counter.

Shortly, though, it would be Arsenal opening the scoring.  Samir Nasri whipped in a cross that Bendtner whiffed completely on, but there would be redemption for the Dane a minute later.  Collecting a pass from Nasri again on the right, Bendtner took a touch forward and launched a shot that looked to be going wide, but he caught a fortunate deflection from the head of Peter Clarke, and the ball slipped under a wrong-footed Bennett and in.  It was a goal that the Dane will no doubt claim, but it was probably going wide before Clarke's bad luck.

Kieran Gibbs saw yellow two minutes after the goal for getting mixed up in a shoving match after interfering with a free kick -- he looked to have missed the whistle -- before Denilson gifted another pass straight to the Terriers, resulting in a shot just wide of Manuel Almunia's post.  Arshavin flicked a pass through for Bendtner at the other end, but Bennett saved.

It was then that the tie went from "okay" to "heavens to Betsy".

After saving a Huddersfield free kick, Almunia launched the ball upfield.  Nasri, running at full sprint, pulled up, clutching the back of his leg and collapsing to the turf in a heap.  Bennett put the ball out immediately, and Nasri was helped off the pitch with what was pretty clearly a bad hamstring injury (see story here).  Tomas Rosicky, still recovering from a virus, stripped off quickly and took the Frenchman's place, but the mood had soured at the Emirates, and the Terriers smelled blood (anyone who owns a terrier knows that this is when terriers do that terrier thing that makes most people not want to own terriers).

Karl Anthony Pilkington, who gave Gibbs trouble on the right all match long, just missed a shot wide with his weaker foot, Joey Gudjohnsson sent a swerving free kick just over the far corner from twenty-five yards, and Emmanuel Eboue slipped when readying to shoot.

The tie then proceeded from "heavens to Betsy" to "Jeeves, fetch my self-flagellation kit and hydrogen peroxide".

Jack Hunt burst forward from the right back position, dribbling past most of the Arsenal team before putting the ball past Squillaci, who lamely tried to prevent Hunt from progressing around him at speed by putting his arm around the man.  Clattenberg wasted no time in sending the Frenchman off for a denial of goal-scoring opportunity, and Denilson was forced to cover at center back for the rest of the half, Arsenal down to ten men and lucky to be ahead.

Wenger made a change at the start of the second half, bringing on Alex Song for Marouane Chamakh, the Cameroonian filling in at the back.  Arshavin shot wide before seven minutes later tracking all the way back to make a terrific last-ditch sliding tackle in Arsenal's penalty area.  [Ed. note: yes, that Arshavin].  Huddersfield kept the pressure on, though, enjoying a terrific spell of possession.

It was then that the tie went from "Jeeves, fetch my self-flagellation kit and hydrogen peroxide" to "maybe I'm just overreacting, Jeeves, but AAAAHHHGJEIQGWJWIORGHA;SKFHTOILETBOWLCLEANSER".

Huddersfield won a free kick on the right, and Alan Lee made no mistake, jumping over his marker to bury the header past a stranded Almunia.  1-1, the Terriers looking at a cupset, and Arsenal very much on the ropes.  Of course, when Wenger feels he's on the ropes, he just brings on Fabregas.

So he did, for the listless Abou Diaby.

Arsenal's passing and possession game immediately solidified.  Bendtner laid a pass off for Laurent Koscielny, whose shot was blocked.  Minutes later, Arshavin set up the Dane, but rather than hitting it first time and burying it, Bendtner took a touch, and the window closed.  Arshavin had an effort deflected over the bar for a corner before Huddersfield headed over from another free kick.

Denilson then pulled up lame with what looked to be another hamstring problem, but he stayed on, Arsenal having used all of their subs.  Pilkington was booked shortly before Arsenal found their way back to the lead.

Fabregas fed Bendtner behind the Terriers defense, and as Bendtner burst through on goal, Hunt challenged him and brought him down at the edge of the six-yard box.  Clattenberg blew for a foul, a penalty, and a yellow card (which possibly could have been a red).  The penalty looked a bit soft from some perspectives, but Fabregas didn't mind as he skipped up to bury the penalty after sending Bennett the wrong way.  The relief around the Emirates was thick.

Huddersfield couldn't manage to generate another chance at an equalizer besides an 88th minute free kick that went just over from Gary Roberts, despite good pressure.  Arsenal saw out the extra time and moved into the FA Cup fifth round, where they will travel a few miles eastward to face Leyton Orient.