Bergkamp on song for Europe
QPR 1 Gallen 20 Arsenal 1 Bergkamp 49 Attendance: 17,970
Sunday 03 March 1996
Bruce Rioch had been appealing to his team's sense of "professionalism", which seemed like a confession that New Arsenal had somehow never materialised. His counterpart, Ray Wilkins, simply appealed for help from anyone. He had lost Alan McDonald, Danny Maddix and Rufus Brevett, all to suspensions, while Mark Hateley had a back injury.
Despite an inexperienced defence, Rangers offered enough early resistance to subdue John Hartson and Paul Merson, while at the same time causing problems for an Arsenal defence that should have been secured by having three in the middle.
Ironically, it was one of those three who contributed the unwanted touch that gave Rangers their chance to take a 20th-minute lead. A hard-driven centre by Andrew Impey from the right was deflected off Steve Morrow to Kevin Gallen whose low shot was never within David Seaman's range. To rub salt into Arsenal's wound, Rangers were at the time down to 10 men; David Bardsley had gone off for stitches in a head wound.
Arsenal's main absentees, Tony Adams and Ian Wright, were much missed. For Rangers, Trevor Sinclair's speed when running at Andy Linighan and Martin Keown always looked likely to bring rewards. Meanwhile, David Platt (playing his first full match for Arsenal since 17 January) and Dennis Bergkamp were kept quiet until the 37th minute, when Bergkamp burst from midfield to force a fine deflection away for a corner by Jurgen Sommer. Sommer was later relieved to see a powerful shot from Linighan rebound off the bar.
Sinclair's free attacking role became even more troublesome to Arsenal when Morrow succumbed to a foot injury and was replaced by Matthew Rose, making his debut. But four minutes into the second half, after Seaman saved from Gallen and sent Hartson upfield, the game swung back in Arsenal's favour. Lee Dixon escalated the attack down the right and blasted the ball into the area, for Bergkamp to crack in probably his best goal since coming to Britain.
Sommer rescued Rangers after 69 minutes, solidly blocking another thudding drive from Bergkamp - always Arsenal's greatest strength. But, at the end, Rangers refuted any ideas that they would settle for one point. Arsenal were penned back for a period of concerned defence, and had Hartson's 84th-minute header crept inside Rangers' post rather than hit it, Arsenal would have been flattered.
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