Arsenal 0 Crystal Palace 0
Two shocking non-decisions by referee Martin Bodenham ensured we will have to
endure this dreadful shower all over again.
The Sussex-based Bodenham has acquired the reputation of being far and away
the most lenient official in the country, a man who would allow play on in the
middle of a civil war.
And today he stunned both sides and the whole of Highbury after refusing to
give two of the most odds-on penalties you are ever likely to see.
Palace, who otherwise were backs to the wall, yet under-extended, for almost
the entire 90 minutes, were the first to suffer when stand-in keeper Alex
Manninger suffered another rush of blood four minutes from half-time.
As Jamie Fullarton took advantage of Steve Bould's slow-thinking, the Austrian
keeper came racing off his line before ploughing into the midfielder a yard
inside the box.
But Mr Bodenham only gave a free-kick, an error he reinforced by denying the
Gunners a certain spot-kick of their own on the hour, when Andy Roberts scythed
down Stephen Hughes.
Despite dominating, Arsenal badly missed the absent Ian Wright, lacking the
inspiration to find a way through as battling Palace kept them out for the
second time this term.
Yet only the most fanatical - or unfortunate - will be keen to buy a ticket
for next Saturday's Premiership meeting back here at Highbury or the Selhurst
Park replay four days later.
Even without Wright, Tony Adams and David Seaman, it was supposed to be a
cakewalk for Arsenal, who had put seven past the South Londoners in their only
previous Cup meeting, 64 years ago.
After all they were unbeaten in 11 games, while Palace's only two victories in
their last 13 had come in the previous rounds of the Cup, and if Marc Overmars
had taken the best chance of the first half, after 10 mundane minutes, it might
have proven that way as well.
Dennis Bergkamp drifted into space to find Hughes, and he slid Overmars in
with the goal begging.
Yet the Dutchman's scuffed shot, dragged to the near post, was kicked away by
Kevin Miller, and after that, despite Arsenal's dominance, Palace were rarely
Nicolas Anelka, Overmars and Bergkamp shot wide from distance, before Miller
was swift to recover after spilling a swerving Bergkamp strike towards Steve
The fact that Arsenal had their long-distance sights on was testament to the
increased resolve of the visitors, even the much-vilified Valerian Ismael
looking like a defender at times.
Not that they had offered much at the other end, Tomas Brolin and Bruce Dyer
hardly visible, but after Emmanuel Petit's left foot screamer had whistled
inches over they caught the Gunners - Manninger and Bould in particular - out.
Roberts lifted the ball over the top, and with Bould caught dawdling,
Fullarton was away.
Just like he did at Middlesbrough in the last round, Manninger dashed
recklessly off his line. This time, again missing the ball, he crashed into the
man, and the linesman flagged.
But for a free-kick, not a penalty, even though the television evidence showed
clearly that contact was made a yard at least inside the box. Lucky Arsenal!
They almost instantly benefitted from the fortunate reprieve, Overmars feeding
Dixon - in for the suspended Adams with Gilles Grimandi at centre-half - for a
strike wide, while Overmars himself began the second period by firing into the
Overmars' pace looked Arsenal's likeliest source of success, although Miller's
speed off his line took a clever Bergkamp ball off Anelka's left foot soon
Palace were being forced too far back, now with nine, often 10 behind the
ball, as Arsenal surged forward, but the breakthrough would not come.
Ray Parlour's right wing insurgence ended with the ball just eluding Bergkamp,
before Anelka was too slow to react to Dixon's drilled cross-shot.
But this was a game where the officials were destined to take centre-stage,
and Mr Bodenham was in the frame again on the hour.
Bould, striding forward from the back, released Hughes into space, and when
Roberts brought him crashing to the ground, the decision was as clear-cut as it
had been with Manninger earlier.
Clear-cut, but once again utterly wrong, as the official gave a goal kick. Now
the Gunners had the right to be incensed, their humour not helped when Bould was
forced off with a suspected broken wrist after an accidental clash with Dyer.
Patrick Vieira came on, Petit reverting to defence, and Anelka responded to
the arrival of his fellow-Frenchman by forcing a save from Miller with 20
Palace, though, had something to hold on to now, something to believe in,
Herman Hreidarsson remaining cool as Bergkamp raced down the left before looking
David Platt, perhaps making his last appearance in an Arsenal shirt if Chelsea
rumours are substantiated, came on for Hughes with time running out, as Arsenal
tried to pull it out of the fire.
Palace might have sneaked it, Manninger only helping a Dean Gordon cross to
Dyer's feet, with Nigel Winterburn throwing himself in the way to block before
Overmars fired across the face of goal at the other end.
Dixon fired over in added time, but Palace deserved a replay if only for their
commitment. Pity the people who have to watch it.
Arsenal: Manninger, Dixon, Winterburn, Bould (Vieira 68),
Anelka (Wreh 82), Bergkamp, Overmars, Parlour, Petit, Grimandi,
Hughes (Platt 73).
Subs Not Used: Garde, Lukic.
Crystal Palace: Miller, Edworthy, Gordon, Roberts, Dyer, Brolin,
Rodger, Smith, Ismael, Hreidarsson, Fullarton.
Subs Not Used: Tuttle, Linighan, Nash, Emblen, Folan.
Ref: M J Bodenham (East Looe).