We came face to face with our North London rivals in a championship-deciding
match. Our participation in Europe and domestic Cups saw us having 2 games in
hand over Chelsea. With the gap at 11 points, Chelsea needed a win to keep up
with us. Although, it would meant that we have to win to pile on the pressure.
2 well-taken goals by Greening saw us leading at half time. Whereas at Villa
Park, Chelsea were 2-1 down. Saviola increased the score line on the hour and
it looked like we were to be crowned champions with 6 more matches to go. Then
Zola scored with 22 minutes on the clock. It was a tense affair for us, since
we wanted to kill two birds with one stone. It would be hard for Tottenham fans
to see us winning the Championship at White Hart Lane. Saviola secured our win
when he scored another goal in injury time. 4-0 to Arsenal! Despite hitting
the post twice in the dying seconds, Chelsea had failed to find the winning
goal and would have to start all over again next season. Hooray! Another Championship
title in the bag. At least we could start concentrating in Europe now.
We went to Stamford Bridge after seeing Ajax Amsterdam 2-1 off in the Champions
League Semi-Final at Highbury. I decided to rest a few key players for the match
against Chelsea and that saw us slipping to a 2-1 defeat. It was a mere consolation
for the Blues. A draw at the Amsterdam Arena gave us a 2-1 aggregate win and
another potential explosive encounter with AC Milan.
News elsewhere, Galatasary won the UEFA Cup after beating Southampton 1-0. This
would mean that if we were to lift the European Cup in 2 weeks' time, we would
have a chance at avenging the UEFA Cup defeat 2 seasons ago.
I allowed the Reserves to play the remaining league games I have since there
was nothing much to lose. I just wanted to gauge their abilities and to promote
a few players for next season's campaign. The young Gunners played extremely
well, drawing 2-2 with Sunderland before humbling Manchester City (4-2) and
Southampton (3-1). Players who showed some future potential were Joe Osei-Kyffour
(2) and David Noble (1) who won the Young Player of the Month award for May.
All in all, the top 5 league standings at the end of the 2001/02 season: Arsenal
(96), Chelsea (78), Tottenham (67), Liverpool (63) and Southampton (63).
Then came the FA Cup Final against a team which would very much like to stop
us from completing a domestic treble again, Tottenham Hotspurs. Spurs haven't
beaten us in 2 seasons and they have conceded more than 20 goals against us
in just 5 matches. History certainly wasn't on their side.
72,472 Tottenham and Arsenal supporters gathered at the Millennium Stadium which
have become our home ground lately, thanks to our victories last season and
this season too. The match started off with Spurs having most of the possession
but failed to penetrate the defense. A long clearance by Stepanovs to Joe Cole,
saw the nippy midfielder dribbling past 2 defenders before flicking the ball
into the path of Saviola. GOAL! That prompted a series of attacks by Spurs.
Then, deep into injury time, Joe Cole chipped the ball to Saviola who coolly
slotted it to Bergkamp in the 6-yard box. GOAL! At the restart, it was a midfield
tussle with neither side having an advantage. In the 57th minute, Joe Cole tried
to take the ball into the box but was blocked by Perry's tackle and the loose
ball fell to Bergkamp. GOAL! 3-0! Arsenal looks certain to lift the FA Cup!
10 minutes later, a cross from Parlour found Saviola and this time with his
left foot. GOAL! Tottenham were being humiliated on the pitch. 10 minutes before
time, Greening's long-ranged effort made it five. Arsenal had repeated their
treble glory! That put us level with 9 FA Cup wins each and United's 10 wins
was within sight.
We set off for Berlin for the highly anticipated match against AC Milan in the
European Cup Final. Milan have won it 5 times. Judging from last year's encounter
and the 2 group matches this year, Milan would be a tough nut to crack. 30,000
Arsenal supporters made the journey to Berlin for the Final. It reminded me
of last year's memorable final, which we won 4-2. Arsenal were unlucky at the
start, both Saviola and Bergkamp shot straight at the woodwork. In the 17th
minute, Bergkamp nodded a cross from Parlour to Ljungberg. Ljungberg made his
way into the penalty box. GOAL! It was an entertaining match with both sides
playing fluent football. The fans were clearly enjoying every moment. In the
second half, it was Milan's turn to pile on the pressure but Manninger and the
rock-solid defense managed to keep Shevchenko and Comandini at bay. A quick
counter-attack saw Ljungberg having acres of space 20 yards from the goal, he
shoots. GOAL! We started to play more defensively. 3 minutes before time, a
pass from Saviola found Joe Cole just outside the box. GOAL! We have won it!
It has been a long time since a team had won back-to-back European Cup titles,
the last being AC Milan themselves.
Our European record this season, having played 17 matches, we won 13 and drew
4. We scored 39 goals and gave away 10 in return.