x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Plucky Leyton Orient force a replay

They have already won themselves a close-season trip to Las Vegas, courtesy of chairman Hearn, and earned by the dynamic forward play of one Jonathan Tehoue.

Leyton Orient's Andrew Whing, left, fights for the ball with Arsenal's Tomas Rosicky.
Leyton Orient's Andrew Whing, left, fights for the ball with Arsenal's Tomas Rosicky.

LONDON // Let's say it before Barry Hearn does. For this week at least the chairman's Leyton Orient team appear to be better than Barcelona.

Where Xavi stood defeated, Stephen Dawson and co remain triumphantly standing. Still in the FA Cup, the strongest Arsenal squad in years hauled back to a 1-1 draw, on a joyous evening at Brisbane Road.

The pair will meet again on March 2, Orient's support now able not only to relish a visit to the Emirates Stadium, but beyond it to dream of an Old Trafford quarter-final against Manchester United.

They have already won themselves a close-season trip to Las Vegas, courtesy of chairman Hearn, and earned by the dynamic forward play of one Jonathan Tehoue.

An athletic French striker whose career has taken him through Cyprus, Belgium and Turkey before arriving in London's East End, Tehoue rose from the bench to stretch an Arsenal defence that had been comfortable until his arrival.

With two minutes of the fifth-round tie remaining Tehoue bustled his way past two visiting defenders before driving a shot hard through Manuel Almunia's legs.

"I didn't really think about what I was going to do," said Tehoue. "I just saw that the two defenders were hesitating to attack me so I just went through and took my chance. Now we have to play the tie again."

Of Ivorian descent like his friend at Arsenal, Emmanuel Eboue, the 26-year-old then increased the amusement by stating he'd been playing "overweight". "I'd say four or five kilos," said Tehoue. "When the season started I had a long injury, I was out for four months because of my hamstring."

Arsene Wenger, a manager famous for his knowledge of footballers, but caught short on this occasion. "No, I didn't know Tehoue," the Frenchman said. "I've never seen him before.

"You have to credit Leyton Orient. They never gave up and as long you as don't score the second goal that kind of thing can happen.

"Today you had fighting spirit against a team that was superior. In a cup game fighting spirit always has a chance."

Orient, 52 league positions below the visitors, were attempting to reach a first quarter-final in 33 years and began impressively, buzzing around their opponents, playing the ball short and fast.

Steadily, though, the visitors enforced their quality upon the match. As manager Russell Slade's pre-match prediction of limited possession came true, Nicklas Bendtner, Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh took regular pots at Jamie Jones's goal.

After the interval, Orient returned to diligent defence, possession still predominantly Arsenal's, and territorial advantage worryingly close to the home goal.

Bendtner in particular sensed the opportunity. Eight minutes into the second half, a slalom run at the Orient defence resulted in a brace of blocked shots, the second of which bounced back to the Dane.

Adjusting his bearings, Bendtner centred to the penalty spot from where an unguarded Tomas Rosicky angled a header in.

Orient responded with a flurry of attacks, but only an athletic double save stopped Rosicky from doubling the lead. However, with Tehoue replacing the outmatched Scott McGleish, 37, Orient, were suddenly more threatening.

Scorer of the last-minute equaliser that prevented Orient losing to non-League Droylsden in the second round, Tehoue's long recovery from injury explains the forward's status as a substitute.

"I think Jonathan's scored all eight of his goals 85 minutes onwards," said Russell Slade, Orient's elated manager. "In terms of the supersub, forget about the David Faircloughs of this world; Tehoue, he's the boy! Secret weapon, brilliant."

As the moments drained away, Tehoue squared up to both Keiran Gibbs and Ignasi Miquel, an 18-year-old Catalan centre-back making his Arsenal debut, on the edge of the area. Tehoue dipped a shoulder past Gibbs and leathered the ball through Almunia's legs.

"You could feel that it was about scoring the second or not making a defensive mistake," said Wenger.

His compatriot had forced the latter.

sports@thenational.ae