Degryse keeps Wednesday afloat

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Arsenal 0
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The Independent Online

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Arsenal 0

Wednesday have not scrambled aboard the Premiership lifeboat yet, but a goal on the hour from their Belgian international striker Marc Degryse has at last given them a firm grip on one of the lifebelts.

Arsenal, still hoping to reach Europe next season, failed yesterday largely because Ian Wright was as anonymous as Degryse was influential. With Wednesday finding it difficult to shake off the relegation jitters, better finishing from Arsenal could have steered the match irreversibly their way before the home side broke into their stride.

Disciplined at the back and ever willing to run into space off the ball, Arsenal made Wednesday look like the away team early on, and David Hirst was left to forage alone up front while his colleagues battened down the hatches. John Hartson had one shot deflected by Kevin Pressman's legs and screwed another wide before Paul Merson forced Pressman to touch over the bar, but Arsenal failed to turn their dominance into goals.

When Wednesday briefly raised the siege, their pretty, one-touch football was broken up by the Arsenal back four. And then the Dutchman Regi Blinker decided to run at them. The full-backs, Peter Atherton and Lee Briscoe, began to offer support down the wings and gradually the tide was turned. Atherton floated a shot on to the bar after Hirst's attempt had been charged down and Hirst failed to make a clean connection from Degryse's through ball.

Arsenal were now living increasingly dangerously and Lee Dixon had to scramble the ball away after Guy Whittingham's cross gave Hirst and Mark Pembridge shooting chances.

Degryse's growing influence started to look as if it would be decisive after the break. David Seaman was forced to save his angled drive at the second attempt and then he found Hirst with a cross that his striking partner volleyed over.

Degryse, who cost Wednesday pounds 1.5m from Anderlecht in the close season finally, and inevitably, broke Arsenal's resistance with his 11th goal of the season. He found Whittingham on the right, moved into space for the return and tucked his drive low to Seaman's left. Wednesday never looked back, and only Seaman's agility prevented Degryse doubling his tally when Whittingham put him clear.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Briscoe, Newsome, Walker, Atherton; Pembridge, Whittingham, Sheridan, Blinker (Waddle 82); Hirst (Kovacevic 84), Degryse. Substitute not used: Nicol.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Keown, Linighan, Marshall; Bergkamp, Platt, Helder (Shaw, 66), Merson; Wright, Hartson (Rose 66). Substitute not used: Hillier.

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).