Ljungberg's double exploits Bergkamp's vision

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The Independent Online

"A busted flush" was one verdict on Dennis Bergkamp as the Arsenal striker, who has struggled to gain even a place in the side, let alone a new contract, was discussed last week. Last night he provided his answer as, despite being played out ofposition, he created the goals which earned Arsenal an extremely valuable win over the Italian champions and competition favourites, Lazio. Busted flush? More like the ace in Arsÿne Wenger's pack.

"A busted flush" was one verdict on Dennis Bergkamp as the Arsenal striker, who has struggled to gain even a place in the side, let alone a new contract, was discussed last week. Last night he provided his answer as, despite being played out ofposition, he created the goals which earned Arsenal an extremely valuable win over the Italian champions and competition favourites, Lazio. Busted flush? More like the ace in Arsÿne Wenger's pack.

The goals, both scored by Fredrik Ljungberg, came after 42 and 55 minutes and they take Arsenal top of Group B and within one more good result of reaching the Champions' League second stage for the first time. It might come in their next match, against Lazio in Rome's Stadio Olimpico in three weeks' times. Such are the maths a draw would do but Sven-Goran Eriksson, the Lazio coach, expects his team, who have yet to start their domestic season, to be a sterner proposition then.

They could hardly be worse, but Wenger believes his team will have grown in stature, too. "Psychologically this is very important," he said. "We have shown we can beat a big team which will convince the players we can be as good as they are. We have everything to prove in this competition but we have the quality and desire to show it."

Wenger also pulled a tactical masterstroke in playing Bergkamp on the right. Eriksson admitted that he, like everyone else at Highbury, had been surprised, but Wenger said: "David Beckham creates a lot from there, so why not Bergkamp. He is an intelligent player, when he faces the game he can deliver the final ball." The switch not only solved the problem of including Bergkamp without omitting Nwankwo Kanu but also set Lazio a question they failed to answer, for the Dutchman soon began drifting into other areas.

Arsenal went forward from the off, forcing a series of corners and free-kicks, but the finishing was poor and Luca Marchegiani was not seriously tested for 30 minutes. Lazio had by then settled and were pushing on themselves but Arsenal's newly discovered goalpoacher, Martin Keown, took it upon himself to add presence to the attack, swivelling to volley Kanu's delightful lay-off from Silvinho's cross. Unlike last week, when he scored twice against Shakhtar Donetsk, the force was not with him and Marchegiani saved comfortably but the incident prompted a prolonged and successful spell of pressure.

Within five minutes, Marchegiani had denied Thierry Henry, after he broke on to a loose ball, and Simone Inzaghi, who inadvertently glanced a Henry free-kick towards his own goal. Lazio did manage a brace of free-kicks from Mihajlovic, both went wide, but were usually committing the fouls themselves and Dejan Stan- kovic, cautioned for bringing down Silvinho, might have been dismissed after fouling Henry.

Punishment came after 42 minutes when Bergkamp popped up at inside-left to head Kanu's cross to Ljungberg, who swept it in on the volley. It was his first goal for six months.

Eriksson, who had guided Benfica to a European Cup victory here nine seasons ago, was less impressed and he sent his side out for the second period five minutes early. As they waited in the rain the big screen replayed the Gunners' goal for their perusal. The headstrong Stankovic was not among the watching Romans, he had been replaced by Attilio Lombardo.

The former Crystal Palace player-manager did not last long - soon being replaced by another ex-Premiership Azzurri Fabrizio Ravanelli - but he was on the pitch long enough to let Ljungberg escape his marking to slide home Bergkamp's perfect pass after the Dutchman had drifted in from the right and glided past three defenders.

Eriksson reacted by bringing on Marcelo Salas, and then Ravanelli, but Arsenal, with Tony Adams immaculate at the back, were not going to let this slip. The only negatives were cautions for Henry, Parlour and Keown, his second of the campaign.

For Lazio there were no plusses whatsoever. Mihajlovic, who played in a protective faceguard which appeared to be part Phantom of the Opera, part Lone Ranger, had better hang on to it - the whole team will want to return to Rome in disguise after this display.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Luzhny, Keown, Adams, Silvinho; Bergkamp (Vivas, 78), Parlour, Vieira, Ljungberg; Kanu; Henry (Wiltord, 84). Substitutes not used: Lukic (gk), Dixon, Grimandi, Cole, Vernazza.

Lazio (4-4-2): Marchegiani; Negro, Mihajlovic, Nesta, Pancaro; Stankovic (Lombardo, h-t; Ravanelli, 73), Veron, Simeone, Nedved; Inzaghi (Salas, 56), Lopez. Substitutes not used: Orlandini (gk), Sensini, Couto, Colonnese.

Referee: J M Garcia-Aranda (Spain).

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