Football: Wright floors revivalists

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The Independent Online
Southampton. . . . .0

Arsenal. . . . . . .4

Wright 18, 30, pen 68, Campbell 84

Attendance: 16,790

JUST when Southampton appeared to be easing away from the relegation zone, in come Arsenal with a 4-0 thrashing that thumped the life out of the Alan Ball revival. The Saints were outfought and outhought, but it was not muscle and mind that delivered their Premiership survival this embarrassing blow, it was that most feared football phenomenon: Ian Wright on a good day.

Wright's game was an exhibition of positional play and faultless finishing, and if there was one element amiss in his game - a poorly struck freekick at the close - there was George Graham on the pitch immediately afterwards to tell him how to correct it. But Wright had already bagged three goals, his second successive league hat-trick and his third against Southampton.

So much for Ball's programme notes which lauded Southampton's recent success. This Arsenal side - resting five of their Cup-Winners' Cup victors over Torino - were allowed to gallop away largely because Matthew Le Tisser, the local maverick, was so superbly shackled by Martin Keown, but also because Southampton had no one with the finishing expertise half approaching Wright's. Put the Arsenal marksman in Craig Maskell's boots yesterday and you can guarantee he would have netted at least a couple. Seaman's saves were the cause of Maskell's misses, though ironically it was a rare miskick by the 'keeper that presented Maskell with the opportunity to fluff Southampton's best chance.

It was not even as if Arsenal were on fire throughout; Wright set The Dell alight with his first two goals, but by the time the second two came the visitors' minds were half way up the M3 and on the coach home. The first 20 minutes, though, were outstanding; they matched Southampton's bright start, stepped up the pace, and then took the lead with Wright diving superbly into a header that left Dave Beasant helpless.

His second goal was even better. The provider was Anders Limpar, with a cross chipped delicately into the box. Wright took it on his chest and hammered the volley inside the right post. By the time Wright completed his hat-trick - a penalty fired in after the inexhaustible Limpar had been brought down by Ken Monkou - Southampton were out of the game. And when Kevin Campbell was allowed to swivel and shoot from 10 yards out with four minutes remaining, Arsenal were merely rubbing it in.

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