Football / European Cup-Winners' Cup: Wright provides Arsenal's insurance: Marksmen maintain Gunners' tight grip on trophy while Viennese hold Hoddle's boys at bay

Brondby. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Arsenal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 ARSENAL'S return to Copenhagen, where they won the European Cup-Winners' Cup last May, provided another result to savour, and for Ian Wright some compensation for missing that memorable triumph. With Alan Smith following him on to the score sheet early in the first half, the holders have constructed a solid foundation from which to claim their quarter-final place.

In a surprisingly open first leg, Arsenal discovered more freedom than they would have presumed and they took handsome advantage to establish a two-goal lead by the 18th minute. When Brondby roused themselves with a much improved display in the second half, Arsenal fell back on their celebrated defensive reserves to limit the damage to Mark Strudal's goal.

While they could have gone home with a wider margin of victory - Wright went close twice, as did Smith and Ray Parlour - Arsenal were only able to maintain their advantage because Nigel Winterburn cleared off the goal-line after Dan Eggen had climbed above David Seaman.

George Graham highlighted the physical nature of the contest. He might have added that Lee Dixon was fortunate to survive, having been lured into a second heavy challenge not long after he was booked for fouling Henrik Jensen. Stefan Schwarz collected his second caution of the tournament for encroaching at a free-kick and that deprives Graham of the accomplished midfielder for the match at Highbury.

Nevertheless, there was much for the Arsenal manager to be delighted about.

'Considering Brondby's home record, this was an excellent result and a good team performance,' he said. 'We expected a hard, physical game and we got it, and that's as polite as I can put it.'

Brondby immediately fired a warning shot that would have unnerved a team less versed in continental know- how and assurance. Only 30 seconds had elapsed before Seaman was called on to tip over a rising drive from Thomas Thogersen.

As a precursor, this was deceiving. Arsenal declared their willingness to carry the game to Brondby and found ample reward for their adventure. Twice Wright had opportunities at the end of moves that were to prove a rehearsal for Arsenal's first goal.

From the second chance, following Nigel Winterburn's near-post cross, he was a yard wide. Another centre, this time from the right, and it was third time lucky for Arsenal and their foremost striker.

Wright was involved at the start of the 16th-minute move with a sweeping pass to Parlour, who took the goalkeeper out with a carefully weighted and accurate pull-back which Wright had no trouble putting away.

Two minutes later, Kevin Campbell was halted long after he ought to have got in a shot. But fortune, and the awareness of Smith, favoured Arsenal as Mark Rieper attempted to play the ball back to his keeper but left it short.

Smith, reading his intentions perfectly, lunged in for the decisive touch.

Rieper, linked with a move to Everton and among those under scrutiny last night by Kenny Dalglish, had not done his chances of future employment in England any good. He continued to share unease with his fellow defenders at the pace and variety of the Arsenal offensive.

Strudal had found a yard of space to briefly worry Seaman, but the opening came to nothing. He was to be more proficent eight minutes into the second half when, for the first time in the game, Arsenal relaxed their guard.

A foul by John Jensen, returning to his home-town club, led to a free-kick which Henrik Jensen floated deep. Lee Dixon lost his man and Bo Hansen squared the ball low for Strudal to ram home.

Brondby (4-4-2): Krogh; Colding (Hogh, 70), Rieper, Eggen, Risager; Bjur, Vilfort, H Jensen (Kristensen, 81), Thogersen; B Hansen, Strudal.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Bould, Adams, Winterburn; Parlour, J Jensen, Schwarz, Campbell; Smith, Wright.

Referee: W Muller (Germany).

Sharpe's aim, page 39

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