Wright hooks Uefa space

Blackburn Rovers 1 Gallacher 13 Arsenal 1 Wright 75 pen Attendan ce: 29,834
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The Independent Online
Ian Wright's last act in a match of drama and controversy at Ewood Park keeps Arsenal's nose in front in the race for the last Uefa Cup place.

The 32-year-old striker, his future at Highbury still in some doubt, claimed his 23rd goal of the season when he beat Tim Flowers from the penalty spot after Colin Hendry was ruled to have brought down Ray Parlour in an incident that provoked fury among the Blackburn players. In doing so, Wright aggravated a groin injury sustained in the first half and took no further part.

The penalty award did seem a decision worthy of debate, the kind of tangle in which neither player seemed any more culpable. But the linesman indicated that he had seen a foul and the referee, Keith Cooper, pointed to the spot. Blackburn, already down to 10 after the dismissal of Billy McKinlay on the hour, expressed outrage, five players bearing down on the line official before Cooper restored order.

At this stage, of course, such moments are critical and Blackburn's disappointment was understandable. Until Wright's kick went in, it did appear that their last home match as champions would bring the tangible reward of Europe within their grasp.

They had been favoured by good fortune when an extraordinary error by David Seaman presented them with an early lead, but had subsequently looked well capable of adding to their advantage.

In the 13th minute, Jason Wilcox was released by McKinlay and had acres of space to attack the goal from the left-flank. What Seaman was thinking about only he will know, but he decided to race from his line to take on the winger himself. Wilcox flighted the ball over his head and Kevin Gallacher, lying in wait, scored easily.

Thereafter, Wright was denied brilliantly by Flowers, hit a post with his follow-up, then saw David Platt's header blocked on the line. But Blackburn still retained an air of control and had opportunity to put the result beyond reach.

Then came the penalty, a misfortune both for Hendry, otherwise impeccable, and for the respected Cooper, in his last Premiership match. After that, Arsenal threatened to take all the points, Hendry clearing off the line from Dennis Bergkamp and Flowers denying John Hartson.