| TEAM LINE UP :|
| Seaman D|
Paolo di Canio gets to grips with Vieira.
Martin Keown steps in.
Nigel Winterburn makes his point.
FULL TIME REPORT|
|SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY|| vs ||ARSENAL|
|1|| - ||0|
| Attendance : 27,879|
| By David Alexander
A last minute goal by Wednesday sub Lee Briscoe ended Arsenal's unbeaten run to the season in a controversial match at Hillsborough.
Briscoe's delicate chip from the left hand side came against the run of play and spoiled an almost perfect afternoon from reserve keeper Alex Manninger, who had impressed with a string of fine saves.
The entertaining encounter was spoiled just before half time when Martin Keown was sent off, Arsenal's third red card of the season. After a number of dubious refereeing decisions leading up to half time,
Patrick Vieira prompted a melee which led to scenes rarely witnessed at a football game in England. Vieira looked to be keeping possession despite the attention of three Wednesday players but got frustrated by the attentions of Wim Jonk. He
lashed out and in the ensuing ruck, Di Canio and Martin Keown got involved in a free for all. Di Canio had to go and did, pushing the referee to the ground in the process, which will surely earn him a lengthy ban.
It looked like Vieira would follow him, but incredibly, Keown was sent off for
his part and Vieira only got a yellow card.
Arsenal started brightly, carving the first openings of the game. Wednesday were reliant on a brittle offside trap, working more in part to dubious linesman decisions than efficiency.
Ray Parlour initially got free on the the right and hit a teasing cross which just evaded Anelka and the Frenchman was denied by a last gasp Des Walker tackle when he found himself with only Wednesday keeper Kevin Pressman to beat.
Walker was indeed the only reason Arsenal did not take an early lead, with another superb interception as Marc Overmars ran free on the left hand side. Parlour had the best of the early chances, though, when he powered down the right and saw Pressman block his shot. The run probably deserved better.
Wednesday were caught square twenty minutes into the game and Emerson Thome was very lucky to escape with a yellow card after hauling down Anelka in full flight. Red cards have been brandished for less.
Alex Manninger, replacing the injured David Seaman in goal, was relieved
moments later when Nicolas Alexandersson miskicked at the back post after good work by Petter Rudi and Paolo di Canio.
The game continued to entertain, with Pressman punching out Patrick Vieira's shot after a neat Anelka backheel and Parlour then missed a glorious chance, shooting wide of an empty net from 40 yards after Pressman had failed to clear properly.
But the game started to deteriorate when referee Paul Alcock started making the sort of frustrating decisions no spectators like to see, bearing little resemblance to the action on the field. Free kicks were given where none seemed to exist and vice versa, with Winterburn and Vivas going into the book.
With Keown off, Overmars was immediately sacrificed for Steve Bould
and Arsenal made the first opening of the second half. Bergkamp was put free just inside the area and should have scored, but Pressman stuck out a foot to deflect the ball just wide of the far post.
Wednesday also went close when sub Ritchie Humphreys headed just wide from an Andy Hinchcliffe cross after Manninger had initially missed a corner
The Sheffield crowd were in full voice, booing every Arsenal player, Vieira in particular, while cheering their own team and the Arsenal faithful did their best to reply with the call "Champions!"
It was the sort of knife edge game that deserved a goal, and Wednesday seemed more likely to break through. Both Vivas and Bould had facial injuries which required treatment, Bouldy having to wear a bandage for the last half an hour of the game to typify the Arsenal spirit.
The best save of the afternoon came on the hour when Manninger did
superbly to tip Emerson Thome's header over the bar from Hinchcliffe's
corner but Wednesday continued to look the more dangerous side.
Manninger again had to be at his best when Lee Briscoe had a free header at point blank range from another teasing Hinchcliffe cross. It showed why Arsene Wenger rates the Austrian so highly.
Parlour then got free down the right and blasted a shot straight at Pressman, which the Wednesday keeper tipped over the bar. But as the action flowed, the Arsenal fans breathed a huge sigh of relief when
Tony Adams' glancing header drifted the right side of Manninger's post and
out for a corner.
Stephen Hughes and Fredrik Ljungberg came on for Petit and Parlour, who had worked like Trojans, and the game seemed to be turning back in our favour. Ljungberg had a late chance to win it when put through by Anelka, but yet
again, Pressman was equal to it.
And Briscoe's late goal destroyed an afternoon of good work, making it an
unhappy a day for the Gunners.
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