Wright sinks tired Leeds
Sunday 07 April 1996
Wright 44, 90
Leeds United 1
AN INJURY-TIME winner from Ian Wright kept Arsenal's aspirations for a place in Europe alive in a match that spluttered briefly but failed to catch light. The start was delayed for 10 minutes because of problems on the London Underground and it was almost 5pm when Paul Merson hooked the ball into the area, Wright controlled it on his chest, turned sharply and drilled the ball low past John Lukic.
The game was a scrappy affair with five bookings and it was imbued with a sort of end-of-season lethargy that Leeds United's manager, Howard Wilkinson, blamed on his side playing two matches a week since Christmas. There were far too many unforced errors to make for an entertaining spectacle.
Arsenal had the best of territory and possession in the first half, and for a time Paul Merson looked their most dangerous player with a succession of surging runs from deep in the midfield. But Leeds defended in numbers getting everybody behind the ball and Arsenal's final pass often went astray to the increasing frustration of their fans.
It took a classic piece of goal-poaching by Wright to open the scoring a minute before half-time. Dennis Bergkamp, who always looked dangerous at the edge of the area, unleashed a stinging shot with too much pace for Lukic to control. Wright pounced on the rebound and succeeded in poking the ball home from six yards.
Leeds did manage to create chances of their own with Tomas Brolin, playing alongside Brian Deane in the absence of Tony Yeboah, at their creative hub. The Swedish international, who has rarely had the chance to start a match at Leeds of late, produced a sweetly-flighted pass to release Gary Speed on the overlap, but he shot the ball straight at David Seaman.
Leeds's best spell came early in the second half and, after Deane and the tireless Gary McAllister had forced finger-tip saves from Seaman, they drew level in the 56th minute. The goal was fortuitous: a speculative shot from Speed glanced off Deane's stomach and a wrong-footed Seaman could only watch the ball roll gently over the line.
Arsenal picked up the pace and took control of the game again. They created several half-chances with Bergkamp going close with another long-range effort and John Hartson had a good opportunity only for his first touch to let him down when he tried to follow up after David Platt's shot had been blocked.
The match seemed destined to finish in a draw until that devastating flash of instinctive brilliance from the Highbury arch-poacher, Wright.
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