WEDNESDAY 5th MAY, 1999
FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) ARSENAL 3 (2)
Referee:- S. Dunn
Spurs (4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Young, Campbell, Taricco ( sub Sinton, 76 ); Anderton, Freund, Sherwood, Ginola ( sub Dominguez, 76 ); Armstrong, Iversen
Subs not used:- Baardsen; Nilsen; Clemence
Booked:- Young, Anderton
Arsenal (4-4-2):- Seaman; Dixon, Keown, Adams, Winterburn; Parlour ( sub Vivas, 57 ), Viera, Petit, Overmars ( sub Grimandi, 87 ); Bergkamp ( sub Kanu, 75 ), Anelka
Subs not used:- Lukic; Diawara
Booked:- Parlour, Petit, Dixon
28 years ago, almost to the day, Arsenal won the championship leg of their 1970-71 double with a victory at the lane. With tonight's victory, the pendulum in this year's competition swung very much in their direction, as Manchester United were pegged at Anfield, and are three points behind with a game in hand. George Graham's side did their best to deprive their local rivals of at least two championship points, but their best was nowhere near good enough, as Arsenal showed more composure on and off the ball, and were genuinely a class above the home side. In fact, Spurs were fortunate to still be in reach after a first half, when the Gunners could have scored five or six goals, but did not reach that level thanks to some great saves from Walker, and one or two misses from Overmars.
This was an end to end, open game, with Spurs showing plenty of endeavour, but failing to create enough real chances on goal, whilst then threat was always existent at the other end. All of Spurs defenders were exposed variously by Overmars, Anelka, Parlour, and particularly Bergkamp, who was allowed to fall deep, in too much space, and lay up perfect chances for his team - mates, two of which led to Arsenal's first half goals. The assistance of Sherwood and Freund in the box led to a number of good blocks. Ginola stayed closer to Taricco for much of the game, offering defensive support, but he did wander more as the game went on. Dominguez, who replaced Ginola with 15 minutes to go, managed to penetrate the defence more effectively, in my opinion. I was impressed with Anderton's performance, but he was often let down by Armstrong in particular failing to read the game, and/or control the ball effectively. Iversen got into the game a little more, but our lack of ability up front was cruelly exposed tonight.
There was a minute's silence for Alf Ramsey, which was fairly well observed, and then the game was off to a roaring atmosphere. In the first minute, there was some good linking midfield play from Freund, Sherwood, and Anderton, which led to Ginola bursting through the defence; crossing the ball, which led to a corner. Shortly after this, Adams fouled Armstrong, and Anderton's free kick was thwarted. This was the end of any real Spurs attack for a while, as Bergkamp was allowed to go clear, and set up Overmars, who had only Walker to beat. Ian stood his ground, and made a good save, but it has to be said that a goal should have resulted.
Referee Steve Dunn adopted a policy of warning players for their early challenges, but Parlour became the first in the book after 12 minutes. Walker was soon forced to make a good save from Petit, as he shot following good build up between Bergkamp and Parlour. I was surprised that Bergkamp was being allowed to withdraw unmarked into that midfield territory, where he is renowned for causing havoc. A goal was on the cards, and it came after 16 minutes, when Bergkamp coolly pierced the defence, for Petit to run into the edge of the area, and chip over Walker with a deft left foot flick.
A defensive error at the other end led to Armstrong being presented with the ball on the edge of the Arsenal box, with only Seaman to beat. I am fed up with writing " he failed to make the most of his opportunity to score".
Even Sol Campbell was under great pressure at times, and he conceded a free kick in dangerous territory, when he brought down Anelka on the edge of the area. Petit uncharacteristically hit a much too strong free kick. Overmars had a mazy run, with Anelka at his side. The young Frenchman 's shot was blocked. Ginola lost the ball inside his own half, and Parlour made the most of it to set up Bergkamp, whose shot went wide across the goal.
The Arsenal domination turned into a two goal lead after 33 minutes. Bergkamp again was the provider, as Anelka ran between Young and Campbell to slot home.
A short corner from Anderton and Ginola, from the right was flicked on by Armstrong, and fell temptingly at the feet of Iversen, but he fluffed a scoring chance.
At the other end, Walker was forced into action to save from Anelka, once more fed by Bergkamp. The resulting corner was headed onto the underside of the bar by the young player of the year. Parlour got into the box, and shot from a narrow angle, but the ball actually went for a throw in.
With 41 minutes on the clock, Spurs were awarded a free kick after Viera brought down Ginola on the left. Sherwood tapped the ball, and Anderton fired a low shot which squeezed to the left of Seaman and into the bottom corner. Spurs were back in the game, which was nicely set up for the second half !
Shortly after the re-start, Viera and Sherwood got involved in a skirmish in the centre circle. Viera was deemed to have committed the foul, but Petit got into the book for pushing Sherwood about as the Arsenal player though that Sherwood had stamped his team-mate. During this spell, Overmars was giving Steve Carr a hard time, and had one shot on target blocked with the help of Sherwood, and another clear chance saved by the feet of Walker as Overmars was put through by Bergkamp.
Spurs did try to take the game to their opponents, and had some pressure thanks to some good work by Taricco. Eventually, this led to a shooting chance for Anderton, but the ball was well over the bar. Freund was getting forward to good effect, and had a penalty appeal turned down, having to be satisfied with a corner. Iversen and Anderton combined well on the right, and got the ball into the middle, but it was stolen off the feet of Sherwood. Sinton and Dominguez took over the left flank duties, and Jose did add a bit of sparkle to Spurs attacks. Another foray from Freund culminated in a short cross from the German, for Sol to head down, but Seaman was safely able to pick up.
A Dominguez cross reached the back post, for Iversen to shoot powerfully, but quite wide, although the ball did hit the rear stanchion. Another Jose cross field pass led to an Iversen run, and 25 yard shot which forced another save from Seaman.
Then, with five minutes left, Kanu, who had replaced Bergkamp, put the game out of Spurs' reach with a superb individual goal. He received a Viera free kick with his back to the goal, and Young tightly behind him. Kanu cheekily flicked the ball over his head, and past Young, turning as he did so, and running round Young to fire home past Walker. Kanu has won some plaudits recently with a classy back-heeled goal at Middlesborough. this goal was better.
The game was over as a competition, and about this time, the Arsenal end had obviously heard that Liverpool had pulled back a two goal deficit against ManU to put the Gunners in pole position for the championship. Yes, it hurts to write about THEM in this vein, but we were well and truly beaten tonight, and I can only report the facts.............
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