Football / European Cup-Winners Cup: Smith's strike brings Arsenal European glory: Battling Londoners make light of the loss of Wright and Jensen
Thursday 05 May 1994
Parma. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0
'ONE-NIL to the Arsenal' they had sung all night - a prophetic as well as inspiriational anthem. They may not be everyone's cup of char but these far from boring Gunners did England proud again last night, rescuing a season of disappointment at home by adding the Cup-Winners' Cup to the impressive array of silverware collected under George Graham's no-frills management.
The first European trophy of his eight-year tenure completes a full set for the single-minded Scot, who has won everything the game has to offer on the domestic front.
Parma, the holders, were favourites to retain the cup, but Arsenal raised their game to compensate for the absence of Ian Wright and John Jensen, and upset the odds courtesy of what was only Alan Smith's seventh goal of the season.
It was hard work, but Arsenal revel in that, and there could be no quibbling with a deserved result which further brightens the new dawn the advent of Terry Venables has given English football.
Graham had spoken of his confidence, yet beneath the veneer of assurance he knew what was always going to be a hard task, against one of the most accomplished teams in Europe, had been exacerbated by the loss of Wright, Jensen, David Hillier and Martin Keown to injury and suspension.
What Wright calls 'the bulldog spirit, man' was needed more than ever. It was there in abundant, admirable supply.
Without their principal goalscorer and ball-winning grafters Arsenal regrouped in 4-5-1 formation with Smith ploughing a lone furrow in attack. It was a role he performed to crafty, economical perfection.
It was a night when there were heroes everywhere, but the colossal influence Tony Adams has come to extend on his team was apparent even before the start when, to the appropriate accompaniment of 'Simply the Best' he helped to supervise the warm-up, and could be seen shaking clenched fists at all and sundry, ensuring that everyone was properly motivated.
The atmosphere helped. Arsenal enjoyed a pronounced advantage in terms of support, the battle flags indicating that the Gooners had gathered from as far afield as Warrington and the Lord Nelson, Dover. One-eyed fanatics, to a man.
The strains of 'one-nil' rang out from the start, but subsided, temporarily, when Parma threatened to win the game in the first five minutes.
Faustino Asprilla, played in by Thomas Brolin, must have scored but for Steve Bould's marvellous saving tackle, and when the Italians came surging back, Brolin turned his hand to finishing and was too close for comfort when he got his head to Antonio Benarrivo's right- wing cross.
Those of us who expected a tight, cat-and-mouse game were pleasantly surprised with half-a-dozen chances created in the first 13 minutes. Parma carved out four of them, and were unlucky when Brolin, serviced by Gianfranco Zola's penetrative run and pass, shot firmly against the base of David Seaman's right-hand post.
Not that Arsenal were playing exclusively on the back foot. Far from it. Kevin Campbell was not far away with a header from Paul Merson's corner, Adams met a Paul Davis free- kick with a firm nod of the forehead which required a last-ditch clearance from Luigi Apolloni and then, after 20 minutes, the Highbury legions were in full voice again.
One-nil was right, Smith fastening on to an extravagant, failed attempt at an overhead clearance by Lorenzo Minotti and running on to shoot past Luca Bucci via his left- hand upright.
Parma passed it around nicely, as we always knew they would, but Arsenal marked and chased assiduously to keep their clever opponents at bay.
Few teams do it better when it comes to defending a lead, and they slipped comfortably into what we have, we hold mode.
When the Italians did manage to break through, Asprilla evading Bould and Zola side-stepping Lee Dixon, England's goalkeeper was equal to the task, touching over Zola's crisp finish.
Arsenal were closest to adding to the score before half-time, the near post header with which Campbell met Davis's corner embarrassing Bucci, who was grateful for Gabriele Pin's goal-line intervention.
Adams, Campbell and Ian Selley were all booked when the going got tough, but Arsenal shrugged off these minor inconveniences and maintained their concentration throughout, Dixon distinguishing himself with a tackle which bordered on the heroic to dispossess Asprilla at shooting range.
Parma were frustrated. Adams and Bould were colossal in defence, the work rate of the midfield reserves was such that Jensen was never missed. It was Arsenal at their bristling best.
Asprilla, always the greatest threat, had English fingers grasping the edge of their seats with a shot which ran tantalisingly wide of Seaman's left-hand post, but the red line held without too much trouble in the face of what was never more than intermittent pressure.
'We shall not be moved' boomed down from the end of the Parken stadium that had become the North Bank for the night. They weren't.
English football has its pride back - at club as well as international level.
Arsenal (4-5-1): Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn; Campbell, Selley Morrow, Davis, Merson (McGoldrick, 87); Smith.
Parma (3-4-1-2): Bucci; Sensini, Apolloni, Minotti; Benarrivo, Pin (Melli, 70), Crippa, di Chiara; Brolin; Asprilla, Zola.
Referee: V Krondl (RCS).
More football, page 43
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