Super-sub Jonathan Tehoue could not have picked a better time to grab the most sensational of last-gasp equalisers against Arsenal on Sunday to earn Leyton Orient’s replay trip to the Emirates.
Forget that we conceded 60% of possession or Arsenal set a record for completed passes, all that matters come the final whistle was Tehoue’s 89th minute strike and getting an incredible 1-1 draw (something I would think the Arsenal fans themselves would understand following their game with Barcelona).
I was somewhere between dread and excitement ever since the draw was made but when the first whistle blew, helped by the fabulous home support, the buzz around Brisbane Road was hard to resist.
We could be heartened by the news before kick-off that Arsene Wenger started with a weakened team but that still included the likes of Rosicky, Chamakh, Denilson etc….
Russell Slade went with his strongest 11, sticking with the team that has proved so effective in recent months.
Arsenal understandably started the stronger, quick interplay really showing the gaps between the leagues. But Orient stayed strong, keeping their shape in front of Jamie Jones.
Marouane Chamakh spear-headed Arsenal’s attack and had the best of the visitors chances early on, his header was easily caught by Jones whilst he missed another good chance when the ball was fired across the box.
Whilst Arsenal’s notorious ability to pass around teams was still on show, their attack looked laboured and sluggish. Chamakh along with Arshavin and Bendtner failed to punish the inevitable gaps that appeared from time to time in the O’s defence.
Whilst most of their work was done in their own half, Orient did create the occasional opening at Arsenal’s end. Stephen Dawson forced an early Manuel Almunia stop whilst Charlie Daniels’ blistering long-range effort only just missed the top corner.
The whistle went for half-time and just like before the start of the game, the stands erupted in celebration for Orient’s fantastic first-half showing.
Yes we were out-played but the O’s showed resilience, discipline and the slight slice of luck you need to get this far in a cup competition.
Ideally Orient would have liked to have held out longer into the second-half, making Arsenal more desperate to push for the winning goal. But it was only 8 minutes into the second-half when the Gunners eventually found a way through.
Bendtner, who generally had a very poor game on the right of Arsenal’s attack, crossed the ball into Rosicky. Rosicky got in front of Jimmy Smith and guided his header past Jones into the corner of the net.
It was a bitter blow to Orient and Slade, who had worked so hard up until that point. But with the game still at 1-0, the tie was very much in the balance.
Jamie Jones has been fantastic between the posts this season and his double save from Rosicky again kept Orient in the game whilst Arshavin’s drilled effort after running past Daniels on the right wing clipped the outside of the post.
One of Orient’s many improvements this season has been the quality of the subs available to Slade. Rather than having little to impact a game, this season’s subs have often changed the game for Orient. Yesterday it was Carroll, Tehoue and Mpoku who came on across the second-half and had a crucial impact on the game.
Carroll came on at half-time and looked assured on such a big occasion whilst Tehoue made the most important of match-winning contributions.
Tehoue had already shown sparks of quality before the last few minutes, his pace and strength causing Arsenal’s defence problems. And in the 89th minute the ball bounced around before Tehoue took it down, stormed past two stranded Arsenal defenders and then fired the ball under the legs of Almunia.
It was a strike of true power from the Frenchman and at the most crucial of moments in the game. Wenger had no time to react and the O’s only had to hold on for four minutes of added time before the stadium erupted with joy at holding one of the country’s best teams to a draw (doing something Barcelona couldn’t do!).
Orient didn’t play their best football but in many ways they didn’t need to. Keeping their shape and defending superbly against a team still littered with worldclass quality was enough to earn Orient their lucrative replay at the Emirates (and the players a trip to Vegas courtesy of Barry Hearn).
Bring on the Gunners once again!
Leyton Orient: Jones; Whing, Forbes, Chorley, Daniels; Crowe (Carroll 46); Smith, Dawson, Cox; McGleish (Téhoué 63), Revell (Mpoku 84)
Arsenal: Almunia; Sagna, Miquel, Squillaci, Gibbs; Song, Denilson; Bendtner, Rosicky, Arshavin; Chamakh
Russell Slade told leytonorient.com:
‘It hasn’t sunk in yet and you just want to savour it really.
‘It’s a fantastic night for the football club, and it was a great performance in terms of our resilience and never-say-die attitude.
‘We’re just over the moon. It was a full house and the fans were unbelievable today. When we went 1-0 down, they were fantastic and helped us so much.
‘We’ve come from behind before, we never give up, and to keep this unbeaten run going after a game against Arsenal is great.’
Jonathan Tehoue told leytonorient.com:
‘When I scored the goal, I didn’t really think about what I was going to do. I just saw that the two defenders were hesitating to attack me, so I went through and took my chance.
‘It was a great moment, a great night for us – all the team and the whole club as well.’
Vital Leyton Orient on:
Vital Leyton Orient on: