Competition: English Premier League.
Score: Arsenal 2
Arsenal: Seaman; Toure (Kanu), Luzhny, Keown, Cole; Gilberto, Parlour, Pires (Van Bronkhorst), Wiltord (Pennant); Bergkamp, Henry. Unused Subs: Stepanovs, Taylor.
Referee: A. Wiley (Burntwood, Staffordshire).
Mark Viduka had scored one hundred and thirty-six goals in his
professional career but none had been as important as the eighty-eighth minute
strike that gave
The word classic is often overused when describing football matches, but this was a classic in every sense of the word. With everything to play for, Leeds and Arsenal slugged it out in an end-to-end encounter that conjured up visions of two heavyweight boxers trading crushing blows from the first bell to the last.There were times in the second half when Arsenal, needing to win to keep any hopes of a second successive championship alive, looked to have twelve or thirteen players on the pitch such was the immense pressure they were exerting on the Leeds backline. But the United’s defenders, so pilloried for an error-strewn performance against Blackburn Rovers the previous weekend, stood firm in the face of relentless Arsenal attacking to allow Mark Viduka to apply the coup de grace as full-time approached.
The Australian had been instrumental in United’s successful battle against the drop and his winner made it thirteen goals in his last nine league outings and an incredible ten in seven under caretaker boss Peter Reid. With Leeds hanging on for the draw that would still have left them needing a win in their final fixture to be sure of survival, Mark Viduka received Dominic Matteo’s intelligent through ball on the right flank. Many strikers would have lashed a shot first time but the Aussie showed great composure to casually ease inside Oleg Luzhny and work the ball on to his left foot. There was still plenty to do at that stage, but with seemingly effortless poise Viduka bent a wonderful curler beyond David Seaman to spark scenes of jubilation amongst the travelling supporters. The goal was fitting reward for another display of one hundred per cent commitment with Mark Viduka often foraging alone but rarely conceding possession despite the persistent attentions of Oleg Luzhny or Martin Keown.
Smith suspended following his recent sending off at
Harry Kewell’s form has summed up United’s season, at times inspirational, more often than not innocuous, but on his day there are few players who can match his skill and vision. Highbury has seen its fair share of memorable goals in recent seasons, but none have been better than Kewell’s sensational fifth minute opener. The Aussie barely broke stride as he let a long ball from Jason Wilcox drop over his shoulder and right into his path before unleashing a venomous half-volley that flew into the far corner, before David Seaman could move. Arsenal’s home may have become known as “The Library” because of a perceived lack of atmosphere in recent years, but Harry Kewell’s strike had every member of the crowd momentarily silenced for a very different reason.
have doubled United’s lead just eight minutes later
after being set free by Mark Viduka but, after
rounding David Seaman, he found himself too wide to be able to find the net
from such an acute angle. The twenty-four year-old enjoyed a twelve year
head-start on Martin Keown and, for much of the game
that was glaringly apparent as the former
Only Arsenal had outscored Leeds on the road but only Fulham, Sunderland and West Ham had conceded more and, going on this game, few would have given Lucas Radebe and Michael Duberry much hope against the most potent attacking line-up in the League. As it was they were absolutely superb, winning virtually everything in the air and throwing themselves into countless blocks in and around the penalty area. Lucas Radebe’s performance was particularly impressive given that he has been beset by knee problems all season and with fellow invalid Dominic Matteo equally eye-catching at the heart of midfield, United’s patched up duo finally dispelled any notion that the players had no stomach for a fight.
That’s not to
say there weren’t any scares along the way though, as Arsenal showed sporadic
glimpses of the form that saw them crush United at
Ray Parlour went close himself shortly before half-time but Ian
Harte put Leeds back in front four minutes after the
interval with a goal from a free-kick for the third year running at Highbury, although this one owed more than a little to a
deflection off Ashley Cole. Arsenal levelled again
when Robert Pires got on the wrong side of Danny
Mills and Dennis Bergkamp was left with a routine
finish from six yards and, when Henry rapped an exquisite curler against the
foot of the post late on, Leeds looked to be on the ropes.But
there was to be one final twist on an afternoon of high drama with Mark Viduka’s great late show. An upshot of the result was that
An alternative report
circumstances were slightly different, but the stakes were the same. When
It started on a high note when Harry Kewell set the tone with a wonderful bullet-like shot from outside the area to give Peter Reid's upstarts the lead. Arsenal were stunned and thousands of watching Manchester United fans, knowing a Leeds win would clinch the title for the Reds, were in delirium. However, Arsenal were level within minutes when Thierry Henry forced the ball home after Paul Robinson pushed a Ray Parlour shot onto the bar. With parity restored it was time for Arsenal to dominate. The home fans roared, the away fans mopped their brows and bit their fingernails.
Four minutes after the break it was game on again. Ian Harte's third Highbury free-kick in as many years left David Seaman with no chance. But Arsenal levelled again when Robert Pires got on the wrong side of Danny Mills and Dennis Bergkamp was left with a routine finish. Henry rapped the post and as the clock ticked down Arsenal were in control. The title was at stake and it seemed
Then the game was turned on its head. Dominic Matteo lofted a seemingly harmless ball up-field and Mark Viduka brought it under control. There was no one in the middle and no danger. But Mark Viduka was in a rich vein of form. Without support, he eased past Oleg Luzhny and unleashed a rocket of a shot to secure the points. It was a stunning strike and one which was worth an estimated £25m to cash-strapped
Harry Kewell scores a brilliant first goal
Mark Viduka congratulates Harry Kewell
Harry Kewell and Ian Harte talk tactics Ian Harte launches the free-kick which beat David Seaman for the second
Harry Kewell congratulates Ian Harte Harry Kewell rounds David Seaman but was just wide
Mark Viduka beats David Seaman to get the third and winning goal
Harry Kewell easily beats Ashley Cole
Mark Viduka wins another battle with Martin Keown Mark Viduka again gets the better of
Martin Keown this time in the air
Oleg Luzhny and Mark Viduka in a wrestle for possession Oleg Luzhny again wrestles with
Michael Duberry climbs high to beat Dennis Jason Wilcox battles with Ray Parlour Safe at last!
Bergkamp in the air
Mark Viduka and Simon Johnson salute the fans
Mark Viduka salutes the fans
Ian Harte and Mark Viduka
scored the goals for
the game suspended
Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp replied for Arsenal Few gave Lucas Radebe and Michael Duberry much chance against
the prolific Arsenal attack
Dominic Matteo’s through ball Paul Robinson saved from Ray Jason Wilcox’s great ball Danny Mills let Robert Pires get
started the third goal Parlour, but Thierry Henry started the first goal the better of him for the second
headed in the rebound
Martin Keown, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp and Oleg Luzhny came into the Arsenal line-up
Giovanni Van Bronkhorst came on as a substitute, while Stuart Taylor and Igor Stepanovs were unused substitutes