Sporting Arsenal say 'play it again'

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The Independent Online
THE Football Association took a remarkable and unprecedented step last night in agreeing to replay an FA Cup tie, after the match between the cup holders, Arsenal, and Sheffield United was decided by a controversial goal that appeared to break one of the game's unwritten rules of sportsmanship.

Arsenal's winning goal was scored after the ball was kicked out of play to allow an injured United player to be treated. When play was resumed, an Arsenal player, Nwankwo Kanu, intercepted a throw intended to hand play back to the opposition. He passed the ball for his team-mate, Marc Overmars, to score unchallenged by a United team which had expected to be given possession.

The goal sparked outrage among Sheffield players and the game was held up for eight minutes as their manager, Steve Bruce, appeared to want to take his team off the pitch at Highbury, north London, in protest while players from both sides jostled each other. United's supporters chanted "Shame on Arsenal" for the remainder of the game which resulted in a 2-1 victory for the home team.

After the game Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, immediately offered to replay the game and the FA moved quickly to accept his gesture. "It is an unprecedented situation. Everybody welcomes the sporting gesture by Arsene Wenger. He is to be congratulated," said Steve Double, FA spokesman.

In British football, an unwritten code of honour dictates that the ball should be handed back to the team in possession when play is stopped for an injured player to be treated. In this case the United striker Lee Morris went down under challenge from Gilles Grimandi in Arsenal's penalty area. As Morris limped off, the ball ran out for an Arsenal throw-in. Midfielder Ray Parlour tried to throw the ball to United keeper Alan Kelly to give the visitors possession.

But Kanu, a Nigerian international recently signed by Arsenal, chased the ball down and slid a low cross into the path of Overmars, who tapped into an empty net in the 76th minute.