Saturday, September 3

Stand up for the Champions

We're running a features, during the internationals "My Favourite Game"

By @BCole90

It should be a difficult choice; as there have been many matches over my lifetime which has been important, entertaining, exhilarating and memorable. The title winning matches, FA cup finals and our great CL run of 06 have all come to mind. But I didn’t see Everton at home or United away so instead of looking at important games in terms of trophies I instead look at one that was to equal a fantastic record set in the previous century. I’m looking at an era where we were the greatest team in the world, a time when we played the best football in the world, had the greatest player in the world and went on the greatest unbeaten streak in the history of the English game.

This match was one where if we didn’t lose meant we equalled Nottingham Forest’s unbeaten record of 42 games unbeaten. It looked like an easy game considering our momentum, form and class, but it was far from it. I certainly expected an easy victory as I’m sure everyone in Highbury did, especially when we Henry put us 1-0 up half way through the 1st half. Reyes picked the ball up about 10 yards in front of our own penalty box and hit a brilliant cross field, over the top ball which bounced once before Henry lobbed the keeper. We should have been ahead before that when Reyes missed an open goal and throughout that half we dominated play and should have stretched our lead.

However just before the break Frank Queudrue went on a brilliant run past 3 of our players before playing in Job who smashed the ball past the ball past Lehmann so that we went in level at the break. But I wasn’t worried, we were the champions, unbeaten for over a season, we would surely kick on a comfortably win the game. But I was wrong. Two mistakes, one from Cygan, the other from Lehmann, resulted in us conceding two soft goals from Hasselbaink and Queudrue in the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half and suddenly you could see the panic in the stadium and feel it in my living room. It can’t happen, not just before we equalled the record, to get so close and yet fall at the final hurdle would have been unbearable.

But within a minute of the restart we had halved their lead with a brilliant goal from God (Bergkamp). He received a pass from Fabregas on the edge of the centre circle in the Boro half, dribbled up to the edge of their area and smashed a low drive into the corner of the net. And suddenly the momentum was with us. Pires was subbed on soon after our 2nd and it was him who equalised within 4 minutes of his arrival. Fabregas picked up the ball on the halfway line and skipped past 3 Boro players before passing to Henry, whose shot was going narrowly wide before Pires tapped it in.

Highbury erupted with euphoria and relief, as did my living room. We had done it; there was no stopping us now. And before I had stopped jumping up and down the replays had stopped, and suddenly Reyes was through on goal and, with his weaker foot, hit a fantastic shot into the top corner. And then came the immortal line from Martin Tyler “Stand up for the champions”, and he was right. Those 10 minutes summed up why that team was so great. It wasn’t just the fantastic style and ability, it was the strength of character and never say die attitude.

Henry scored near the end of the game to put the icing on the cake and as the whistle went I knew I had seen a fantastic game that I wand many other gooners will never forget.


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