Football Electronic Telegraph
Sunday 17 May 1998
Issue 1087

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  • Double time for Arsenal earns Wenger rich reward
    By Colin Malam

    Anelka's goal adds gloss to finish
    Wenger toasts his multi-national team
    Bloodied Pearce gives his all for nothing
    Disgraced directors' disappearing act
    The Double Winners

    Arsenal (1) 2 Newcastle (0) 0

    IN THE end, it was all so predictable. Arsenal won the FA Cup and completed the fabled Double just as easily as everyone thought they would. There may have been only two goals in it, but the extent of Arsenal's superiority was scarcely reflected by shots put in the back of Newcastle's net by Marc Overmars and Nicolas Anelka.

    Newcastle never stopped trying to take something from the match, but they could never find the creative spark or the cutting edge to trouble Ars?ne Wenger's formidable side. They must have known it was not going to be their day when, in the second half, Nicolaos Dabizas and Alan Shearer hit the woodwork.

    The announcement of the teams brought more disappointment to the Toon Army than to the massed ranks in red and white. While the Arsenal fans were already resigned to the loss of Dennis Bergkamp because of his hamstring problem, the Newcastle supporters had to contemplate taking on the champions without the services of right-winger Keith Gillespie.

    Newcastle got round the problem, as they have done before, by playing Warren Barton wide on the right and bringing in Temuri Ketsbaia to support Shearer in attack. While Barton could not provide the same sort of attacking thrust as Gillespie, his defensive experience was useful in helping Alessandro Pistone to cope with the speed of Overmars down that side of the field.

    Newcastle had slightly the better of a tentative opening by both sides and Ketsbaia was the first player to muster a shot. The shaven-headed Georgian delivered it with his left foot from some 25 yards out after twisting and turning to find space. It did not carry a lot of pace but David Seaman stood to attention at his left-hand post, just in case, as the ball scuttled wide.

    Arsenal took some time to get into the game because Newcastle were clearly under instructions to pressurise, to put it politely, the Gunners' midfield powerhouses, Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit. You cannot keep a good man down, though, and it was Vieira who began the splendid move from which Arsenal ought to have taken the lead after 20 minutes.

    He fed the ball wide to Lee Dixon, who quickly threaded it through into the path of Ray Parlour's incisive run down the inside-right channel. Changing gear in full stride, Parlour accelerated outside Steve Howey and delivered a head-high centre that the unmarked Anelka contrived to head over the bar as he met the ball a little too early six yards out.

    Arsenal's disappointment was soon forgotten, since they went ahead anyway just three minutes later. The move was simplicity itself, Petit dropping the ball over the top of Pistone down the left. Overmars headed the pass forward at pace, then showed impressive body strength to hold off the Italian's challenge before prodding the ball into the net past Shay Given.

    Arsenal might have scored other goals that way in the first half because they quickly realised that they needed to do no more than hit the ball long to exploit the lack of pace in the Newcastle back four. A few minutes before the interval, Petit sent Overmars running clear again down the left, but Parlour blazed over the bar from the Dutchman's inviting pass.

    Christopher Wreh, too, shot too high when Parlour picked him out unmarked some 20 yards from goal. Ketsbaia was not guilty of the same inaccuracy at the other end, but his effort went straight at Seaman. Since that was all Newcastle were able to muster by way of a reply, it was not entirely surprising that mounting frustration led Shearer to make a late tackle on Tony Adams that was rightly punished with a booking during the time added on to the first half.

    Disturbingly, the second half began with a flurry of bookings, Newcastle's Barton and Dabizas and Arsenal's Nigel Winterburn joining Shearer in receiving a caution for fouling an opponent. There was not much in the way of excitement or entertainment to make up for it, either, since neither goal was remotely under threat again until the 53rd minute.

    At that point, Dabizas won a free kick by diving as he was challenged by Adams. Then the Greek international got above everybody at the far post to clip the bar with a header from Robert Lee's flighted kick. But if Newcastle and their fans were disappointed by that, they could scarcely believe what happened next.

    Midway through the second half, Martin Keown trod on the ball as he was preparing to clear it and Shearer swooped. Bursting to the left, the England striker drove the ball powerfully across Seaman with his left foot. However, the ball thudded against the foot of the far post and rebounded back out past Shearer as he was preparing to celebrate a goal.

    As if that were not bad enough, Arsenal increased their lead five minutes later. Again it was just a long ball over the top that did the damage. Anelka did look as though he might have been offside as he ran on to Parlour's pass, but the linesman let him run away from Howey and crash the ball past Given with his right foot.

    Sending on Steve Watson for Barton and Andreas Andersson for Stuart Pearce, Newcastle launched a desperate late assault on the Arsenal goal. But a free kick from Shearer and a shot from Gary Speed both flew narrowly wide, while Shearer, left with the goal at his mercy when a Ketsbaia shot was blocked, had the ball whipped away from his feet at the last second by the vigilant Winterburn.

    Full results and team details
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