Arsenal 2 Leeds United 1
Marc Overmars scored a brilliant double to give Arsenal all three points against Leeds and former Highbury boss George Graham and turn a first-half feud
into a second-half thriller.
Referee Gerald Ashby left the field at half-time to a storm of booing after
his lenient handling of an opening 45 minutes which produced more fouls than
He booked only one Leeds player, Gunnar Halle, despite the string of bad tackles by both sides and also turned down a couple of Arsenal penalty appeals.
But £7.2million Dutch winger Overmars put matters right for the Gunners after
the break with an unstoppable strike on the hour and the follow-up blast 12
minutes later after another Dutchman, Leeds substitute Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink,
smuggled home an equaliser in between.
For students of flowing football the first-half was best forgotten as both
sides lunged into one another and Arsenal players battered the referee with a
volley of complaints at the Leeds tackling.
But the Gunners were lucky that Graham's new team had forgotten their shooting
boots or else the game could have been over by half-time with Leeds comfortable
Rodney Wallace shot tamely and straight at goalkeeper David Seaman when clean
through a malfunctioning Arsenal offside trap in only the third minute.
Then, despite Arsenal's general command of the proceedings, Lee Bowyer allowed
Seaman another comfortable save in the 36th minute when he should have buried a
Wallace cross after Alan Maybury charged down Nigel Winterburn's clearance to
provide the opening.
By then Arsenal thought they should have had at least two spot-kicks.
Winterburn appeared to be shoved over in the box by Lucas Radebe, who had been
switched to a man-marking role on Dennis Bergkamp after Alf Inge Haaland limped
Radebe certainly marked Bergkamp with a flying, two-footed challenge that left
the striker in a crumpled heap soon afterwards but referee Ashby again turned
his back on all complaints.
Luckily for the 38,000-plus crowd there was a distinct change of attitude in
the second half by both sides and the lightweight Overmars prospered more than
anybody, taking his tally of goals to four in the last six games.
His first came after a beautiful through ball by Frenchman Emmanuel Petit and
although Hasselbaink, who immediately came on as sub for Bowyer, tapped into an
open goal for the equaliser after Seaman only managed to push away Wallace's
fierce cross-shot, Arsenal just about deserved to go in front again.
This time Overmars ran like a jack rabbit onto Bergkamp's pass and drove his
shot between Martyn's legs.
The Leeds keeper had already produced heroics by preventing an own-goal from
David Wetherall, who deflected Ray Parlour's cannonball cross-shot and was glad
to see Martyn turn it acrobatically over the bar.
Martyn covered himself in glory again when diving to keep out the goal-bound
30-yarder by Ian Wright and Arsenal fans went away wondering whether this was
the last memorable moment they would see from their record goal-scorer, who is
apparently on the verge of a move to Portugal's Benfica later this week.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has stated that Wright is not for sale but the
34-year-old striker is said to be putting the pressure on the Arsenal board to
let him go and earn one more big pay day before retirement.
Arsenal: Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Vieira, Bould, Wright,
Bergkamp, Overmars, Keown, Parlour, Petit.
Subs Not Used: Anelka, Manninger, Grimandi, Boa Morte, Hughes.
Goals: Overmars 60, 72.
Leeds: Martyn, Kelly, Haaland (Molenaar 21), Radebe, Wetherall, Wallace (Lilley 88), Ribeiro, Bowyer (Hasselbaink 53), Halle,
Subs Not Used: Beeney, Harte.
Goals: Hasselbaink 69.
Ref: G R Ashby (Worcester).