Arsenal unable to cash in

Football: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Arsenal 0

Arsenal surveyed the mess made by most of the Premiership leaders of the Boxing Day matches and then slipped up themselves. Given a chance to go within a point of the top, they failed to grasp it at Hillsborough.

In a game that was a Christmas cracker only in that it became more disappointing the closer you looked into it, the Gunners faded rather than rose and in the end had to be grateful that Benito Carbone pulled a late chance wide. Instead of making ground on the leaders, Liverpool, they ended the day as far away as they began.

"That's the first time this season we have been in awe of the opposition," David Pleat, the Wednesday manager, said. "I thought we improved when Regi Blinker came on but we weren't good enough to break them down. It's a measure of the improvement we've made that the players are disappointed."

Boxing Day nights are traditionally for drowning sorrows or toasting success. Playing never used to be on the agenda before Sky came on the scene and the prospect did not fill Arsene Wenger with relish. "It's just not right," the Arsenal manager said, fearing his side might suffer a reaction tomorrow because of shorter recuperation time.

An amount of ill-will lingered from the teams' first meeting in September, which Arsenal won 4-1, and that was apparent when Nigel Winterburn was booed at his first touch. All very petty, but, to be honest, the Wednesday fans were given little reason to get excited by a first half that reached a poverty that was as profound as the temperature was cold.

What there was to warm the imagination, if not the body, came from Dennis Bergkamp. While others looked hurried, the Dutchman sailed through the game with serenity.

After 14 minutes, he fired just over after Ray Parlour, replacing Lee Dixon as the right wing-back, had wriggled down to the by-line and pulled the ball back, but it required another six minutes for the full unveiling of the Arsenal striker's art.

A long cross from Parlour had two Wednesday defenders bracing themselves for a shot, an impression reinforced by Bergkamp's slight dip of his shoulder. Instead of an attempt on goal, however, his volley with the outside of his right foot laid the ball on a silver plate for David Platt - who sent the ball lamely high.

Wednesday's attack had been all but anonymous until this point - Carbone's shot straight at John Lukic a rare exception - but just after the interval there was a run that took one back to the days when David Hirst and injury were not the most commonly joined words in football.

The Wednesday striker skipped round Tony Adams and deceived another defender before being brought crudely to the earth by Martin Keown. He escaped a booking, but his colleagues did not elude a further test of their famed obduracy, this time from Guy Whittingham's shot after Hirst had temporarily caused confusion with an attempted overhead kick. With an air of someone who had done it many times before, Steve Bould got in the way to block the effort.

Little had been seen, too, of Wright, who had scored a hat-trick in the first game, but he almost changed that as he scampered after Parlour's cross after 55 minutes. Only Ian Nolan's hoof into the crowd denied him.

On the hour, Arsenal almost broke the deadlock. Paul Shaw crossed and Bergkamp rose to head past Kevin Pressman. Imperious in style, it was just out in terms of execution and the ball thumped against the post before bouncing clear.

Arsenal's chance had gone and with it an opportunity to steal a march on others with title ambitions. Only Manchester United managed that yesterday.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Nolan, Walker, Stefanovic, Nicol; Whittingham, Oakes (Blinker, 56), Atherton, Pembridge; Carbone, Hirst (Booth, 77). Substitutes not used: Clarke (gk), Humphreys, Trustfull.

Arsenal (5-3-2): Lukic; Parlour, Keown, (Marshall, 90) Adams, Bould, Wnterburn, Merson, Garde, Platt (Shaw, h-t), Bergkamp, Wright. Substitutes not used: Linighan, Bartram (gk), Hartson.

Referee: R Dilkes (Mossley).

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone