By Myles Palmer
Arsenal 2 Bradford City 0
Ashley Cole had a smashing game but his first good cross showed us what a pantomime this game was going to be.
Thierry Henry took a swing at the cross in the inside left position, well inside the area, missed the ball completely, and fell backwards by way of apology to Cole and the crowd.
Ashley Ward went through onside for a one-one-one and missed the sitter of the month in the fourth minute.
Bergkamp flicked Henry through but his cross-shot beat the far post.
Bradford sat back so Vieira had acres of space and looked very commanding and dynamic.
Bergkamp brought a ball down cleverly and played it back to Parlour, who strode forward and blasted a fierce bouncing shot past Gary Walsh.
That made it 1-0 after 16 minutes.
Thierry tried a 25 yard sidefooter that was plain silly, the kind of shot you try from 15 yards.
Then Cole was far too late with an obvious pass down the channel to Henry, who was very pissed off that the ball did not come sooner.
Lee Dixon sent in a venemous cross from near the corner flag.The ball went up fast and came dipping down toward the far post where Lauren nodded it neatly inside the post. He hardly jumped. He only had one foot off the ground when he headed that ball.
A very tasty, tidy goal by a player I’m really enjoying.You cannot teach what Lauren did to score that goal.It was very simple, very instinctive, like some other goals he has scored. The ball should never have reached him, but it did – and he buried it
Bergkamp took a perfect free-kick from the left but Vieira headed over the bar from five yards. It was one of those How Did He Miss That? moments. He got there a split-second too soon and couldn’t control the header, that’s how.
It was exhibition stuff now and when the ball was booted about 70 feet in the air it came down just outside the Bradford penalty area.
Henry caught the ball on his foot and juggled it four times before passing backwards to a team-mate. A preposterous bit of skill which earned warm applause.
At half time I saw Freddie Ljungberg come out through the directors box and walk up into the back of the stand.Freddie was with two young blondes and was dressed in a ridiculous manner.He wore a black motorcycle jacket which was padded with advertising logo-panels like a pro rider. His normal everyday attire, I’m told, is punk-metal T-shirts.
The second half was sloppy, with Arsenal not concentrating enough to score again.But Parlour, Henry and Cole all hit the post.Sub David Hopkin was booked for a vicious tackle on Vieira. And Bradford came back into it a bit in the last ten minutes.
Overall,the game was weird.A weird pantomime match. Not often that you play a relegated team in January.
But it was a league win. It was Arsenal’s first Premiership victory since Boxing Day.
Wenger was as relaxed as we have ever seen him, very chatty, teasing a little bit and not giving two much away on subject of his Thursday-Friday FA hearing about his 12-match ban. He seemed very confident about the outcome but he refused to say which players would testify on his behalf.
He said Pat Rice would take training for those two days, no problem.
I asked him if Lauren scored a lot of headers in training. He said :No, but he always gets into good positions in the box.
31st January 2001.