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The BBC's David Oates
"They took the game to the Gunners from the off"
 real 28k

Thursday, 9 December, 1999, 21:17 GMT
Arsenal triumph in six goal thriller

Giles Grimandi scores Arsenal's first


Nantes 3-3 Arsenal (3-6 agg.)

Arsenal let a 3-1 lead slip to end on level terms with a ferociously determined Nantes, but the London side still progress in Europe with a convincing aggregate victory.

The Gunners fought back from a 1-0 deficit themselves to score three outstanding goals in the space of 18 minutes.


Match facts
12 mins - Sibierski scores from a free-kick
19 mins - Da Rocha misses from point blank range
24 mins - Giles Grimandi equalises
30 mins - Thierry Henry makes it 2-1
42 mins - Overmars poaches Arsenal's third
57 mins - Sibierski makes it 3-2
77 mins - Vahirua equalises off the post
But it was a different story in the second half as the visitors took their foot of the gas and Nantes produced a thrilling finale that will have salvaged no small measure of pride for the French team.

The Gunners went into the match with a warning from manager Arsene Wenger, who pointed out that Werder Bremen overturned a 3-0 deficit to beat Lyon 4-3 on aggregate last Tuesday.

Nantes' Antoine Sibierski had clearly taken note as he converted the French sides' first real chance of the evening on 12 minutes - a sublime, curling free-kick from 25 yards out that comfortably beat the despairing dive of Alex Manninger.

Almost immediately, the home side missed another solid gold chance in the Arsenal goalmouth as Lee Dixon failed to clear and the lurking Frederic Da Rocha hoofed it over the crossbar from point blank range.

The home side should have taken that chance, because from the until half-time it was all Arsenal.

Midway though the half, Giles Grimandi equalised for the visitors, controlling a ball poked through by Patrick Vieira and bobbling the ball over the keeper to score.


Thierry Henry Thierry Henry blasts through the Nantes defence
Six minutes later Kanu looked to be hemmed in on the edge of the box as four Nantes defenders swarmed around him.

Instead the African footballer of the year elegantly spooned the ball over their heads into the path of Thierry Henri, who fired in the Gunners' second from wide right.

Their third came courtesy of Marc Overmars, who poached the ball from Nicolas Savinaud just before the interval and casually slotted it home as a thoroughly dispirited Nantes appeared to give up the ghost.

But the second half presented a different picture as Arsenal relaxed and the home side went in search of face-saving goals - exposing worrying flaws in the Gunners' defence in the process.

Sibierski began the fight back with the deft reception of a square pass from Da Rocha, burying the strike in the back of the visitors' net on 57 mins to impressively lift his side.

Suddenly Nantes were hurling three and four men forward, effectively closing Henry and Overmars out of the game. Wenger responded by substituting them for Silvinho and Davor Suker with 20 minutes to go.

It did little good, as the home side swarmed through, winning three successive corners and slamming the ball twice into the side netting.

Finally, substitute Marama Vahirua equalised just minutes after taking to the pitch, with a crossed shot that glanced in courtesy of the post.

The striker created a whole series of fresh problems and was only denied a second goal by a desperate Nigel Winterburn block in the closing five minutes.

Two threatening free kicks ensued on the edge of the Arsenal area, but Nantes were unable to convert a fourth goal and the rattled visitors survived to take what they had rather too early assumed was their place in the next round.

Teams

Nantes: Landreau, Olembe, Gillet, Savinaud, Leroy, Carriere, Berson, Sibierski, Bustos, Toure, Da Rocha. Subs: Lievre, Fenillat, Grondin, Mace, Aristouy, Vahirua, Rubil.

Arsenal: Manninger, Dixon, Adams, Grimandi, Winterburn, Ljungberg, Vieira, Petit, Overmars, Kanu, Henry. Subs: Vivas, Suker, Silvinho, Hughes, Luzhny, Barrett, Lukic.

Referee: Jan Wengeref (Holland)

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See also:
25 Nov 99 |  Football
Late goals seal Gunners' win
01 Dec 99 |  Football
Kanu named Africa's top footballer
Links to other Football stories are at the foot of the page.