Southampton 1 Arsenal 3
Dennis Bergkamp upstaged Ian Wright's bid for Gunners glory with a
magnificent double as the Highbury side showed their title credentials.
All the attention had been on the England striker's quest for the two goals
that will take him above Cliff Bastin's 178 and make him the club's greatest
Wright, however, was forced to experience a frustrating afternoon, his only
statistical contribution to the day being a booking for failing to retreat at a
Francis Benali free-kick.
But with Wright having an off-day, up popped Bergkamp to produce the moments
of majesty that earned all three points.
Despite dominating the early stages, the Gunners had been hauled back level
when Neil Maddison cancelled out Marc Overmars' first goal in English football.
Yet that gave Bergkamp the platform to show his genius with two goals
out of the highest drawer.
The first came 12 minutes into the second half.
The 'Ice Man' had it all to do
when he picked up the ball in the centre circle, with eight striped shirts
between him and the goal.
But nothing could divert Bergkamp from his chosen course as he surged on
towards the box, the home defence retreating in front of him as he arrowed to
his chosen destination.
And, having got there, the finish, hard, right-footed and just inside the
post, could not have been more emphatic, even the impressive Paul Jones having
It was enough for victory, even if Wright was destined to wait until
at least Wednesday's trip to Leicester.
But Bergkamp then went one better 12 minutes from the end, robbing Lee Todd,
ignoring the fact that his shirt was being almost tugged off his back, and then
slipping past the full-back before crashing home.
It was a scoreline that summed up Arsenal's domination.
After only seven minutes Wright, fed by Overmars' vision, brought the ball
down instantly only for his 20-yarder to sail high and wide.
Overmars and then Bergkamp almost claimed the breakthough and Saints, with
David Jones giving a debut to youngster Duncan Spedding and a first start to
Kevin Davies, looked out of their depth.
So it was no surprise when Wenger's side went ahead in the 19th minute.
Overmars did not appear to have too many places to go as he received the ball
wide on the left, but the flying Dutchman jinked into the box before slipping under Paul Jones and into the net.
That was his first goal since a £7million move from Ajax, and the second
should have come just three minutes later, but he spooned over the top after
Jones had foiled Wright following a brilliant Bergkamp flick.
It was all so easy, and it made Southampton's 25th-minute equaliser even more
of a shock.
Steve Bould, back in for Scott Marshall, blocked Matthew Oakley's first
attempt to cross from the right, but could only send the second spinning up in
But the Arsenal defence stood waiting for somebody to take charge, and, when
they all declined, Maddison's bravery in going for the ball was rewarded with a
downward header that trickled in.
The goal gave the home side the belief they had lacked earlier, even if DavidSeaman was not troubled.
But Bould and Gilles Grimandi were now being tested.
Unfortunately for Saints though, with Egil Ostenstad lasting just seconds after the break before giving
best to his ankle problem, Arsenal took control again.
Oakley hacked Patrick Vieira's header off the line with Jones beaten, and the
keeper then plunged to his right to keep out Bergkamp's shot.
It was only delaying the inevitable, however, and while Bergkamp's goal was
worthy of appreciation, perhaps the Southampton defence should have tried to do
more about it than they did.
Seaman nearly gifted Saints a second leveller straight away, fumbling a Daviescross towards the net before regathering before it crossed the line.
And then substitute
David Hughes missed a real sitter.
And that was their last real chance.
Wright and Bergkamp fell foul of referee
David Elleray, but nothing was going to prevent this being Bergkamp's day, as he
claimed the clincher.
After that Arsenal tried everything to set Wright up for the goal he wants so
much. It did not come, but nobody was too bothered.
Southampton: Jones, Dodd, Todd, Magilton, Monkou, Benali,
Oakley (Hughes 63), Maddison, Davies, Ostenstad (Johansen 46),Spedding (Evans 73).
Subs Not Used: Neilson, Taylor.
Goals: Maddison 25.
Arsenal: Seaman, Winterburn, Bould, Vieira,
Grimandi (Marshall 75), Garde, Parlour, Petit (Platt 65), Wright,Bergkamp, Overmars (Boa Morte 87).
Subs Not Used: Anelka, Lukic.
Booked: Bould, Wright, Bergkamp.
Goals: Bergkamp 57, 79, Overmars 20.
Ref: D R Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill).