Football: Ambitious Arsenal's Wreh of hope

Wimbledon 0 Arsenal 1
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The Independent Online
ARSENAL closed the gap on Manchester United at the top of the Premiership last night with a battling victory over Wimbledon. While United dropped two points at West Ham, the Gunners secured all three at Selhurst Park thanks to Christopher Wreh's first goal for the club.

Wreh, the 22-year-old cousin of Milan's George Weah, was making his first Premiership start for Arsenal and found the net in the 20th minute as the visitors capitalised on an excellent first-half display. The Dons responded with typical vigour in the second but Arsenal, with their Austrian goalkeeper Alex Manninger especially impressive, held firm to secure a notable scalp. Arsene Wenger's side have now been beaten just once in the last 18 games.

After the kick-off had been delayed 30 minutes by a bomb scare, Arsenal quickly settled to their game and Wimbledon's defence was stretched to the limit as Dennis Bergkamp, Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars made deep inroads with some precision play.

Wreh's smart back-heel from a Bergkamp pass gave Nigel Winterburn a chance which he blazed just over from the corner of the area. Bergkamp, fouled by Kenny Cunningham on the quarter-hour, snapped on to Petit's quick, short free-kick, cut inside and crashed a right-foot shot against the underside of the bar. Wreh nodded in the rebound but was ruled offside.

The breakthrough seemed inevitable, and it came five minutes later. Winterburn stripped Wimbledon's right flank bare with a perfect through pass to Overmars who cut the ball back for Wreh shoot past Neil Sullivan.

Sullivan's flying save to touch Ray Parlour's rocket-shot over the bar prevented Arsenal doubling their advantage.

Sullivan made a stunning save to prevent Petit ramming home Arsenal's second goal two minutes after the break after Lee Dixon had charged down the right wing to supply the cross.

But then Wimbledon came roaring back and were unlucky not to equalise in a series of hectic goalmouth skirmishes which began when Jason Euell pounced on Cunningham's low cross, and Manninger just managed to block him at the expense of a corner.

In the 49th minute Arsenal gained a breather when Wreh slipped a delightful ball through for Bergkamp to run on to the edge of the box and clip his shot across the face of the goal and just beyond the far post.

But when Arsenal failed to clear at the other end Wimbledon's pounds 1.6m new boy Andy Roberts struck a ferocious 18-yard effort which forced Manninger to dive full length for the save.

As Wimbledon grew in confidence it was all hands to the pumps in the Gunners goalmouth. Manninger missed a cross, but somehow turned Gayle's close-range header over the crossbar with an hour gone.

Then the visitors' goalkeeper saw Michael Hughes' clever lob drift just wide of the far post after a slip by Winterburn allowed the Irish international to go through.

When Arsenal broke out again Sullivan miscued a clearance from Cunningham's back-pass, and it looked a certain goal when Wreh smartly set up Bergkamp 12 yards out - but Chris Perry dived in with a crucial tackle on the Dutchman.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Blackwell, Perry, Thatcher (Kimble, 55); Ardley, Roberts, Jones (Gayle, h/t), Hughes; Euell (Cort, 80), Leaburn. Substitutes not used: Heald (gk), Francis.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Manninger; Dixon, Keown, Adams, Winterburn; Parlour (Garde, 72), Vieira, Petit, Overmars (Hughes, 77); Bergkamp, Wreh (Boa Morte, 86). Substitutes not used: Anelka, Lukic (gk).

Referee: D J Gallagher (Banbury).

More reports, results, page 31

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