Football: Wright faces more FA action
Thursday 28 August 1997
Arsenal apparently coasting to a routine victory, found themselves forced to concede a point to Leicester and Ian Wright embroiled in a fresh disciplinary controversy after a frenzied flurry of goals in stoppage time at Filbert Street.
Leading by two Dennis Bergkamp goals with seven minutes left, Arsenal were put under pressure for the first time by Emile Heskey's reply.
Matt Elliott pulled Leicester level at the start of time mysteriously added on by the referee Graham Barber, Bergkamp immediately completed a hat-trick both managers described as "world class".
Yet still the home side piled forward, and their captain, Steve Walsh, maintained their unbeaten start with the third goal in a four-minute spell.
While all this was going on, Wright watched from the touchline, his quest for the goal which would equal Cliff Bastin's record of 178 for Arsenal having ended with his substitution 12 minutes from time. But when the final whistle belatedly sounded, Wright was in the thick of a group of Arsenal players who surrounded the referee to question his timekeeping.
Wright, no stranger to disciplinary hearings at Lancaster Gate, appeared to jostle with Walsh, and had to be restrained by Gary Lewin, the Arsenal physiotherapist.
Mr Barber later confirmed that both players, as well as Arsenal's Patrick Vieira, would be reported to the Football Association for "adopting an aggressive attitude towards each other".
Wright, who has already received what was effectively a final warning from the FA, may now find his attempt to secure a place in the history books undermined by a long suspension.
The post-match fracas should not be allowed to detract from Bergkamp's brilliance. Having struck two fine goals at Southampton on Saturday, the Dutchman needed only nine minutes to reinforce the theory that he is benefitting from the attention being paid to Wright.
Receiving a short corner from Marc Overmars, Bergkamp unleashed a right- footed diagonal drive from the angle of the penalty area which tore into the net off the angle of the far post and crossbar before Kasey Keller could move.
Bergkamp strove selflessly to set up his partner for the historic goal. Wright sent one effort into the side-netting, ballooned another so high it would have earned three points at nearby Welford Road, and swivelled to shoot tantalisingly wide just before he was withdrawn.
By then Bergkamp's second goal, which looped into the air off Keller, after he had taken Vieira's pass, and cut through Leicester's defence, seemed to have relegated Wright's needs to the back burner.
Perhaps unsettled by their manager's introduction of three substitutes in quick succession, Arsenal were shaken when Heskey scrambled what appeared no more than a consolation goal. And they looked shattered as Elliott's deflected drive defeated David Seaman's dive.
Bergkamp, controlling David Platt's cross and exquisitely wrong footing Spencer Prior before completing his first treble in English football, looked to have given Arsenal the points their superiority had merited.
Leicester, however, do not know when they are beaten. Seconds later, a game of head tennis between Elliott and Walsh ended with the latter heading high past Seaman.
Wenger later defended Wright saying "I don't think he was the dirtiest player on the field tonight."
Leicester's manager Martin O'Neill admitted his team had been "second best", but added with poetic licence "its not often you score three in four and a half seconds against Arsenal."
Leicester City (3-5-2): Keller; Prior, Elliott, Walsh; Kamark, Izzet (Cottee, 73), Lennon, Savage (Parker, 73), Guppy; Heskey, Claridge (Fenton, 63). Substitutes not used: Whitlow, Andrews (gk).
Arsenal (4-4-2); Seaman; Dixon, Grimandi, Bould, Winterburn; Parlour (Platt, 82), Vieira, Petit, Overmars (Hughes, 82); Bergkamp, Wright (Anelka, 78), Substitutes not used: Marshall, Lukic (gk).
Referee: G Barber (Pyrford, Surrey).
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