Bergkamp embarrasses Gullit

Chelsea 0 Arsenal 3 Wright 22, Platt 53, Bergkamp 80 Atten dance: 28,182
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The Independent Online
EARL'S Court, just up the road from Stamford Bridge, might have been a more appropriate venue. No easy games in the Premiership these days? Only against an injury and suspension-stripped Chelsea a week before an FA Cup semi-final perhaps. Arsenal duly took advantage to creep into second place on goals scored in advance of Liverpool's match against Coventry City today.

After enduring Chelsea's early enthusiasm and then taking a lead with Ian Wright's 27th goal of the season - which also made him the first to 20 in the Premiership - it developed into a mere morning constitutional for Arsenal. Ultimately they were able to indulge in some exhibition stuff, none more so than the twinkle-toed Dennis Bergkamp.

"After losing to Liverpool, the players showed a great reaction," said the Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger. "Some say this is an old squad but they still have ambition and show great spirit."

Not so Chelsea, whose own coach Ruud Gullit was left more annoyed than at any other time this season. "It was an opportunity for players who are not regulars to show themselves," he said. "And I was very disappointed. I thought they would show more passion and skills." The returning Frank Leboeuf and Mark Hughes should restore some quality and durability against Wimbledon next Sunday.

It might have been different, had what would have been a picture goal actually found the net for them. Jody Morris, a promising and initially confident young lieutenant in midfield, found Craig Burley on the right and Gianfranco Zola met his cross at the far post with a left-footed volley just over the bar.

The chance came in an early spell that saw Chelsea quicker to adapt to the early kick-off. Zola and the recalled Gianluca Vialli both forced David Seaman into scrambling saves with snap shots from distance, with a formidable Arsenal defensive line refusing to be picked open.

Then a sublime moment from Bergkamp reversed the momentum. Swivelling in possession in midfield, he launched a delicate through-ball into Wright's path, who tucked the ball past Frode Grodas. Thereafter Patrick Vieira gripped midfield and Steve Bould had Vialli in his pocket as Arsenal assumed control.

They should have sealed the match just before half-time when a clear Bergkamp clipped the ball straight at Grodas. Wright might also have had a penalty when Steve Clarke tugged away at him. No matter. Seven minutes after the interval, Arsenal were two lengths clear. The thoroughbred Bergkamp was again the instigator, finding Wright on the left and, from his low cross, the hitherto anonymous David Platt turned home. "Even Platt must score," shouted someone as the ball came across.

Fittingly Bergkamp, touch assured and vision telescopic, was rewarded with a goal of his own, rounding Grodas after Burley and Andy Myers in Chelsea's patchwork defence had failed to cut out Seaman's long kick. From there on, Arsenal simply revelled in the openness of the game.

Wenger offered an interesting reason for the best away record in the Premiership, as compared to Arsenal's patchy home form. "The pitch at Highbury is small," he said. "Now we play on the ground rather than in the air, it makes it difficult. We have to adapt to find a solution." Now why did George Graham never think of that?