Chelsea 2-3 Arsenal

By Dean Gripton

Arsene Wenger told the world last week how his Arsenal could not afford to lose any more games, so defeat here - to championship rivals Chelsea - by definition meant that his Gunners are out of the championship race.

And they were seven minutes away from being out of the race before that Nigerian talisman Kanu struck twice to complete a most unlikely comeback.

Two-one down and lacking any real inspiration, Kanu scored twice including a dramatic last minute winner to turn the game on his head.

Firstly, his right-foot shot on the turn found it's way past De Goey's left-hand to make Chelsea rue how they failed to win a game that, at two goals up, they were dominating.

Then, with seconds remaining, Kanu completed his hat-trick when he somehow found the net from an impossible angle and beat at least four defenders on the line from by the corner flag. He dribbled past Ed De Goey on the byeline with a remarkable piece of skill, but that was nothing compared to the sensational strike into the top corner. I'm struggling to contain my superlatives, it was a magical goal that could define a season when the final tale is told.

Before Kanu's dramatic double intervention it seemed that the conclusion to be made was that Chelsea have improved enough to be serious contenders this season, despite anything that Sir Alex Ferguson may say.

Without Gianfranco Zola and Gustavo Poyet, Chelsea seemingly had Arsenal punch-drunk with two more headed goals to nothing. But what will that reversal do to the Chelsea spirit, with a trip to Milan to come.

Chris Sutton was preferred up front in place of Gianfranco Zola, who was rested on the substitute's bench. Arsenal left Dennis Bergkamp out of the squad altogether, pairing Davor Suker and Kanu in attack for the first time.

This game has always had a history of trouble on the pitch, and when Lee Dixon was booked for taking a kick at Graeme Le Saux in the second minute the opening omens were not good.

Kanu came close after 14 minutes, firing into the side-netting when Dennis Wise failed to control a cross from Fredrik Ljungberg on the right.

The big Nigerian was the main attacking threat for the Gunners in the first-half but his header from a Dixon cross lacked aerial technique and sadly could only find Row X.

The quality of Chelsea's crosses, were not of the required standard and too often the Arsenal defence, and another disappointment was Marc Overmars, who found only the corner flag with one aimless ball and after another run lamely ran into a Leboeuf block.

Then the first goal. Tore Andre Flo climbed above Martin Keown to head a Dan Petrescu cross home Overmars then had a great opportunity to equalise befire the break when Freddie Ljungberg reached the byeline. the ball broke the the errant Dutchman who could not keep his sixteen yard shot down.

The second half started explosively for Chelsea. In front of the World Cup committee it was possibly fitting that one of Glenn Hoddle's low points as England manager in the last World cup was recreated by Dan Petrescu. In Bordeaux the Romanian took advantage of a slip by Graeme Le Saux to beat David Seaman as England lost. Today the Chelsea pair combined in the best possible way to ruin Seaman's day again.

Seven minutes into the half Graeme Le Saux found a yard in the left-wing and his cross was perfectly flighted for Dan Petrescu to get an easy header to score from six yards. The legendary Arsenal defence missing as the unmarked Romanian beat Seaman again.

The rain was teeming down, and Ed De Goey was thankful for it, which created a nice puddle that slowed down Lee Dixon's shot, obviously the full-back getting the taste for goal after his three-year buster last week against Everton. Davor Suker teed the veteran up and his twenty-yard ground shot hardly troubled the Dutch goalkeeper.

Chelsea were giving too many free-kicks away around their penalty area, but from the next Overmars again couldn't find the right range and was wasteful.

Flo had a great chance to wrap the game up when in acres of space on the left, but he dallied when confronted by Martin Keown. Zola was to replace the Norwegian later, and little did we know how pivital a moment that would be.

Arsenal, by now attacking the deep end, bought a sub on (Thierry Henry) but were still sinking. But it became a red October. The French record signing replaced the unlucky Ljungberg, who had created more than the unhappy Overmars on the other flank.

Petit could only last 70 minutes before the increasingly heavy conditions took their toll on his recovering knee. He was replaced by Nelson Vivas.

Suker continued to look a dangerman and his 73rd minute effort nearly deceived De Goey. Out on the left side of the penalty area, always Suker's favourite, the Croat spotted De Goey drifting towards the edge of his penalty box and went for the new gap at the near post, but found the outside of the post with the goalkeeper scrambling to cover his embarrassment.

Kanu scored his first with only fifteen to go when Overmars' ambitious low-drive went straight to him, fortuitously, as Arsenal finally had reason to be thankful for Overmars' off-day. Kanu toe-poked home under two challenges, and was glad that the puddle in De Goey's goal could not tackle his goalbound shot.

After the equaliser, Frank Lebouef's late header from a Zola corner, his set pieces caused more problems for the Arsenal defence, came close to restoring the lead for the home side, looking for a double against their main challengers within the month after that win over Manchester United.

But that man Kanu ensured that it wouldn't come, and the way he was mobbed by his Gunners team-mates afterwards revealed just how much this win meant to Arsenal.

Chelsea: De Goey, Ferrer, Desailly, Leboeuf, Babayaro, Petrescu, Wise, Deschamps, Le Saux (Poyet 53), Sutton, Flo (Zola 70).
Subs Not Used: Hogh, Morris, Cudicini.
Booked: Le Saux, Wise, Deschamps, Sutton.
Goals: Flo 38, Petrescu 52.

Arsenal: Seaman, Dixon, Keown, Adams, Silvinho, Parlour, Ljungberg (Henry 62), Petit (Vivas 64), Overmars (Upson 90), Kanu, Suker.
Subs Not Used: Manninger, Vernazza.
Booked: Dixon, Suker, Petit, Vivas.
Goals: Kanu 75, 83, 90.
Att: 34,958
Referee: A Wilkie (Chester Le Street)