FOOTBALL: Bergkamp brings relief all round

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Arsenal 4 Southampton 2

In the months that followed England's elimination from the last World Cup, David Seaman found a succession of opposing supporters making the same enquiry. "Where were you when Bergkamp scored?" they asked. In recent weeks the chant has been due for an ironic re-release, with application to any Arsenal player, but after the Dutchman's spectacular performance in this match, the question will become one enjoyed by Arsenal fans for years to come.

Certainly few of the 38,000 crowd will forget the moment he opened his Premiership account. Of course much of what he has had to endure in the last few weeks has been tabloid nonsense. The pounds 7m buy may have been without a goal in seven starts, but much of his play had been sound, occasionally sublime.

However the headline "Bergo Quite Good Again, But Doesn't Score" failed to appear, and there was no denying that the unforgiving nature of the coverage created an atmosphere of concern going into Saturday's game. No denying either the relief from Dennis Bergkamp himself, from his team- mates and from his manager, when he dispatched Glenn Helder's cross with a crisp volley after less than 20 minutes.

His second, to break the deadlock at 2-2, was even better. Picking the ball up just inside the Saints half, he drifted inside a couple of half- hearted challenges and unleashed a 25-yarder into the top right-hand corner. "It is in my top three," Bergkamp, not a man given to hyperbole, said.

It may also be one of the most important. Bergkamp has sometimes allowed himself to become a peripheral figure in his first few weeks here, but there were signs against Southampton that he is ready to do to English defenders what he has so often done to England defenders. The goals will surely help. So will a burgeoning partnership with Ian Wright, one that is being aided by playing on the same team in some highly competitive five-a-side matches.

Already Bergkamp is enjoying his first couple of months in the English game more than the equivalent period when he moved to Italy. "I like the mentality. There are two teams and both teams want to win," he said.

This wonderful encounter was a case in point with Southampton responding admirably having been overrun in the first half hour, when Tony Adams added to Bergkamp's opener. Two headers from Matt Le Tissier dead-ball deliveries brought them parity, and had Neil Shipperley finished an incisive counter-attack early in the second half the Saints might have changed the story-line completely.

As it was Wright - who was somewhat fortunate to still be on the pitch after a spiteful lunge on Ken Monkou - rounded off the victory with a vintage goal.Was he looking forward to a week off, Wright was asked afterwards. "Week off?" he retorted. "You don't understand, man. We've got those five- a-sides."

Goals: Bergkamp (17) 1-0; Adams (23) 2-0; Watson (24) 2-1; Monkou (45) 2-2; Bergkamp (68) 3-2; Wright (73) (4-2).

Arsenal (4-4-1-1) Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn; Merson, Parlour, Keown, Hillier; Bergkamp; Wright. Substitutes not used: Bartram (gk), Jensen, Hartson.

Southampton (4-1-3-2) Beasant; Dodd, Hall, Monkou, Benali (Heaney, 78); Widdrington; Magilton, Le Tissier, Maddison; Watson, Shipperley (Warren, 78). Substitute not used: Grobbelaar (gk).

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).