Last-gasp Kanu does the trick Arsenal's Nigerian international leads fightback as Chelsea throw away a two-goal lead

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Some fixture to set before the 2006 World Cup delegation of inspectors.

Some fixture to set before the 2006 World Cup delegation of inspectors.

After all, this London derby is not one known for its chivalry or its neighbourliness, more as a continuation of hostilities. The Arsenal manager, Arsÿne Wenger, had suggested it could be "war", which was quite possibly not a word to mention in front of guests who would influence England's fate next year. Hopefully, he got away with it. Indeed, with the past conduct of these two sides, the concern was that the VIP visitors might liken the experience to their hotel counterparts discovering a rodent in Fawlty Towers.

No rats here; only raptures for the goalscoring potency of Arsenal's match-winner, the imperious Nwankwo Kanu, who claimed a hat-trick inside the last quarter of an hour, and surely the plaudits of all but the most myopic Blues supporter. It was tough on Chelsea who, two goals to the good were cruising to victory. If there is to be any consolation for them, it was that they played a crucial role in a compelling spectacle under a virtually constant downpour, which contained all the power and finesse that epitomises Anglo-European football.

In two seasons, the seven games between these clubs had produced 40 yellows and three reds and yesterday was just about par for the course. Chris Sutton, recalled here after Gianluca Vialli gave preference to Gianfranco Zola and Tore Andre Flo in Turkey, has, as they say, something of a history where the Gunners are concerned. He certainly wouldn't be on the Arsenal players' Millennium celebration list, particularly bearing in mind his long-standing antagonism with Martin Keown and Tony Adams.Yet, the two sides, who had enjoyed such conflicting European fortunes in midweek, aided by intelligent refereeing from Alan Wilkie, served to produce a game of spice, not spite.

Emmanuel Petit gave his team a mighty psychological boost by starting his first game - after missing 13 matches - despite having had only a 60-minute run-out in the reserves in midweek. His presence was compensation for the loss of the suspended Patrick Vieira. His welcome back included a caution, but that will not trouble him. The important thing is that he displayed his familiar tenacity in midfield. Fiorentina, Arsenal's rivals at Wembley on Wednesday, have been warned.

What Milan, Chelsea's opponents at the San Siro the previous evening, will have made of Vialli's men, though, is quite another matter. They faded badly after seemingly having had the game won and there will be some serious contemplation from the coach before revealing his team for that daunting contest.

The Chelsea captain Dennis Wise, striker Sutton and Dan Petrescu were restored to Vialli's team as the Italian rotated his squad, while Flo enjoyed the rare luxury of beginning two games in succession, his prize for two goals on Wednesday. It was, perhaps, inevitable that Zola, after his exertions against Galatasaray, would be on the bench, together with Gustavo Poyet and Jody Morris.

The referee lost no time in announcing that he would countenance no untoward tackling by issuing the first yellow card within two minutes after Lee Dixon had buffeted Graeme Le Saux repeatedly from behind. There is something about the England defender that appears to make him a ready victim and Davor Suker was also cautioned for catching him late.

Otherwise, although there was always an edge to proceedings and, indeed, the tackling was relentless in a frenetic first 30 minutes, there was little sting to any of the confrontations. Neither was there an excess of goalmouth incident. In fact, it was half an hour before Sutton gave David Seaman any cause for concern, with a powerful downward header which bounced over keeper and bar.

Arsenal, the Premiership team with the most shots this season - 186 before the start - had looked the likelier of the teams to lift the contest above a midfield battle of attrition, when Fredrik Ljungberg's splendid work on the right culminated with Kanu diverting the ball just wide. Dixon also watched a long-range attempt deflected over. Yet Arsenal, who had Petit back in their ranks but missing the injured Dennis Bergkamp, were also facing the team with the most niggardly defence and Ed de Goey was not unduly troubled.

Yet, just when it appeared that Chelsea were struggling to regain the attacking momentum of Wednesday night, Flo struck with a vengeance. Petrescu fashioned the invitation with a typically-astute cross from the right and the Norwegian climbed between and above Keown and Dixon to loft a deft header over Seaman. From that moment, the feeling in the game intensified and it was no great surprise to see Wise added to Mr Wilkie's list of miscreants.

Within six minutes of the restart, Petrescu fired in the second for the home side. Le Saux, who had received his usual tirade of abuse from the visiting supporters, will have taken great delight in answering them with a sweet left-wing cross which the unmarked Romanian headed home with relish.

There appeared no way back for the visitors but, after 74 minutes, Chelsea failed to clear Marc Overmars effort and Kanu struck. Eight minutes later, the languid Nigerian was played in again by Overmars, before lashing the ball beyond De Goey. A draw might have satisfied both sides, but Kanu would not hear of it, and a minute into added time, he worked his way along the goal-line before unleashing a remarkable drive from an impossible angle into the net. In just four days, Vialli's men had truly been to hell and back.