Wise draws level at the last

Football: Arsenal 3 Chelsea 3
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The Independent Online
A goal three minutes into injury time from Dennis Wise earned Chelsea a deserved share in a fluctuating and enthralling London derby last night.

What this match meant in terms of championship ambition is uncertain, although it keeps both teams in promising early-season positions.

What it meant for Premiership football was incontestable: nothing but good. A crowd of 38,132 witnessed a contest which never slackened in its intensity as Chelsea, 2-0 up within half an hour, bewildered the home side with their virtuosity and then succumbed to a display of sheer willpower before recovering with virtually the last kick of the match.

Wise, who had earned the penalty which enabled Franck Leboeuf to give Chelsea the lead after six minutes, still had enough enthusiasm to chase a chip from the 83rd-minute substitute John Spencer and drive it low past John Lukic, standing in for David Seaman after the England keeper had returned from Saturday's match in Moldova with hamstring trouble.

It was an unhappy occasion for the 35-year-old Lukic, who returned to Highbury from Leeds on a free transfer in the close season. His first Arsenal appearance in six years was spoiled by the error which allowed Gianluca Vialli's speculative-angled drive to slip under his body for a second goal after 31 minutes.

But Arsenal, encouraged by Paul Merson's goal on the stroke of half-time, set about their task after the break and after Chelsea had lost their composure and their central defender Leboeuf, who was carried off with a bruised side, Martin Keown headed a 65th-minute equaliser from Merson's corner.

The arrival of Ian Wright, still not fit enough to command a starting place, after 74 minutes was clearly intended to provide a decisive goal and after just five minutes on the pitch he appeared to have fulfiled that objective as he beat his marker to a long ball and lobbed Dimitri Kharin bravely before being flattened by the keeper's charge. Wright recovered; but so did Chelsea.

Stewart Houston, Arsenal's caretaker manager, spoke proudly about the "courage and resilience'' his side had shown. "That's what this club is all about," he added. Chelsea's manager Ruud Gullit was more ambivalent. "It's a strange feeling," he said. "I'm unhappy about what happened after we had the game in our control, but I'm happy with the way we reacted.

"I think we have the quality, and we showed the quality tonight. But that's not enough. So I think this game will be a good example for us for the rest of the season."

Since taking over from Glenn Hoddle this season, Gullit is still establishing what Chelsea are all about. But it looking exhiliaratingly good so far.

Arsenal (3-5-2): Lukic; Keown, Linighan, Bould (Wright, 74); Dixon, Parlour, Merson, Morrow (Platt, h-t), Winterburn; Bergkamp, Hartson. Substitutes not used: Helder, Harper (gk), Rose.

Chelsea (3-5-2) Kharin; Johnsen, Leboeuf (Duberry, 63), Clarke; Petrescu, Burley (Spencer, 83), Di Matteo, Wise, Myers; Hughes, Vialli. Substitutes not used: Hitchcock (gk), Minto, Morris.

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).