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EDITIONS

 Wednesday, 1 January, 2003, 17:04 GMT
Arsenal edge past Chelsea
Dennis Bergkamp's shot flies in off Marcel Desailly
Dennis Bergkamp's shot flies in off Marcel Desailly
Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea

Arsenal survived a late Chelsea rally to stay five points clear at the Premiership summit after a dramatic win at Highbury.

Arsene Wenger's side looked home and dry as they cruised into a three-goal lead with ten minutes left.

Marcel Desailly's own goal, plus second half strikes from Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Thierry Henry put the Gunners in charge.

Arsenal's players mob Bergkamp
Arsenal's players mob Bergkamp

But late goals from Mario Stanic and Emmanuel Petit gave Chelsea hope of an unlikely point and forced Arsenal to survive anxious closing stages.

But Arsenal held on to confirm their supremacy at the top of the table and put a dent in Chelsea's title hopes.

Chelsea recalled Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Carlo Cudicini - and confirmed their attention to attack Arsenal with a high tempo start.

But it was Wenger's team selection that reaped the first dividend, with Dennis Bergkamp marking his return to the team by creating the opener after nine minutes.

Key moments
9 mins: Desailly's deflection puts Arsenal in front
81 mins: Van Bronckhorst doubles Arsenal's lead
82 mins: Henry extends Arsenal's advantage
85 mins: Stanic puts Chelsea back in contention
86 mins: Petit grabs Chelsea's second

Ashley Cole's cross found the Dutch master, and even though he failed to make a clean contact, a deflection off Desailly deceived Cudicini.

Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman came to the rescue of his side when Graeme Le Saux powered in a drive from the edge of the area.

Seaman parried well, and then recovered brilliantly to dive on the rebound ahead of Hasselbaink.

Character as well as talent got us through

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

But Arsenal were in the ascendancy, with Mario Melchiot brilliantly blocking Sylvain Wiltord.

Wiltord was then narrowly off target as the league leaders attempted to press home their advantage.

Chelsea tried to force their way back into the game by sending on Eidur Gudjohnsen for Le Saux.

Vieira battles with Lampard
Vieira battles with Lampard

But Arsenal looked to have settled matters with ten minutes left when Van Bronckhorst fired home from 20 yards after being set up by Henry.

Henry was on target himself as Arsenal extended their lead two minutes later, when his shot was fumbled into the net by the hapless Cudicini.

We played with great pride

Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri

But Chelsea grabbed at a lifeline after 85 minutes when Stanic sneaked at the far post to head home Petit's corner.

And Petit left Highbury holding its breath in the final stages when he took advantage of a mix-up between Sol Campbell and Seaman to score.



Arsenal: Seaman, Cole, Campbell, Keown, Luzhny, Wiltord (Lauren 69), Silva, Vieira, Pires (van Bronckhorst 56), Bergkamp (Toure 79), Henry.
Subs Not Used: Jeffers, Taylor.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot, Gallas, Desailly, Babayaro, Le Saux (Gudjohnsen 70), Petit, Lampard, De Lucas (Gronkjaer 56), Zola (Stanic 79), Hasselbaink.
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Terry.

Attendance: 38,096.

Referee: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 BBC Five Live's Simon Brotherton
"Four goals in the last ten minutes"
 Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"We had to dig deep"
 Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri
"We showed alot of pride"
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