It was due reward for the marginally better team at Stamford Bridge but neither they, nor Chelsea, played as well as they aspire to. Or, given the quality involved, should do.
London derbies are rarely good matches but it still seemed everyone wanted to see the capital's most fashionable sides. Even the driver of a District Line underground train to Barking, temporarily delayed en route, apologised and said: "Now it's straight to Fulham Broadway." A few seconds later he added: "I guess we'll have to stop at Putney Bridge and Parsons Green but I'll go as quick as I can."
Three hours later the mainly Chelsea supporters on board were heading back wondering if they would have been better off remaining on the train. They had the pleasure of seeing their team score twice which should never be under-estimated but that was overshadowed by the bitterness of losing to Arsenal.
Chelsea had briefly led, Gustavo Poyet putting them ahead after 40 minutes. Four minutes later Bergkamp levelled and Chelsea's afternoon declined from then on. Bergkamp, after 58 minutes, put Arsenal ahead and though Gianfranco Zola equalised 77 seconds later Lebouef soon departed following a second yellow card. There were 23 minutes left and an Arsenal win seemed inevitable. But, three weeks earlier, they had been denied by a depleted Tottenham for twice that time and it was with a sense of relief they acclaimed Winterburn's 88th minute goal.
"Our experience won the game in three areas," said Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager. "There were many situations where they needed to keep clam; when it is 11 against 10 younger players may rush it and you need to keep calm; and one of our experienced players won it." In a back-handed compliment he added of Winterburn: "He played very well, he showed even at his age that he can be strong."
The "situations" he referred to were the constant niggling which always threatened to boil over. Ray Parlour was fortunate to escape with a kick at Graeme Le Saux and Dennis Wise was merely booked for a two-footed lunge at Patrick Viera.
"There were two to three minutes in each half when it was violent," said Wenger. "Dennis Wise should have been sent off before Lebouef was."
"It was a derby," responded Ruud Gullit, as for Wise I thought you could tackle like that in England as long as you go for the ball." He added: "The game came too soon after Thursday's European match. We did not recover well."
Which begs the question, given Chelsea's huge squad and Gullit's promotion of a squad system, why he only made one change from the Slovan Bratislava tie.
This was Chelsea's first home defeat for 20 matches - the last was also against Arsenal. Both managers agreed the turning point was Lebouef's departure but the difference was made by Bergkamp. Both Lebouef's bookings were for bringing him down and everything Arsenal did went though him.
"He is at his peak," added Wenger. "He is fantastic to watch - it is not only his goalscoring. He is intelligent and strong."
He has also been booked four times and will be banned for three games after his next yellow card. "That is a big worry when when you see the difference he makes to our team," said Wenger.
Bergkamp had tested Ed de Goey twice within the opening 10 minutes. Much huffing and puffing later his movement deceived Chelsea's defence as he ran onto Ian Wright's flick from Viera's chip to score. It levelled a goal by Poyet, tapped in after Mike Duberry had headed down a Wise cross following a mistakenly awarded corner.
Bergkamp began the second period with a spectacular volley from Emmanuel Petit's deep cross which de Goey beat out. He then drilled in his second goal after Duberry had compounded a mis-kicked clearance by blundering into Lebouef and heading the ball to Bergkamp. The unfortunate Duberry later went to hospital for X-rays on a suspected fractured ankle after an injury-time collision.
Zola equalised from Paul Hughes' precise cross but Winterburn had the final word from 30 yards. "I've been getting stick for not scoring for a year [March 1996]," said Winterburn. "The space opened up so I thought I'd try it and see what happened."
Goals: Poyet (40) 1-0; Bergkamp (44) 1-1; Bergkamp (58) 1-2; Zola (59) 2-2; Winterburn (88) 2-3.
Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; P Hughes, Lebouef, Duberry, Le Saux; Petrescu (Nicholls, h/t), Di Matteo (Flo, 60), Wise, Poyet; Zola, Vialli (M Hughes, 56). Substitutes not used: Myers, Hitchcock (gk).
Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn; Parlour (Boa Morte, 87), Viera, Petit, Overmars (Grimandi, 89); Bergkamp, Wright. Substitutes not used: Anelka, Upson, Manninger (gk).
Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).
Sending-off: Chelsea: Lebuef. Bookings: Chelsea: Wise. Arsenal: Bould, Bergkamp, Grimandi.
Man of the match: Bergkamp. Attendance: 33,012
league of nations
Players from 10 nationalities were on parade at Stamford Bridge yesterday. This how they lined up.
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