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BBC Five Live's Alan Green
"Arsenal finally get it right in the Champions League."
 real 14k

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"I'm very proud of my players"
 real 14k

Arsenal's John Lukic
"I thought we played very well"
 real 14k

Arsenal's Patrick Vieira
"We want to prove ourselves"
 real 14k

banner Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 21:21 GMT 22:21 UK
Pires sends Arsenal through
Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry escapes from Alessandro Nesta
Lazio 1-1 Arsenal

Robert Pires revived glorious memories of Euro 2000 to send Arsenal into the next phase of the Champions League against Lazio in Rome.

Pires emerged as a substitute to inspire France to victory in the summer showpiece final against Italy - and repeated his heroics to seal a night of glory for the Gunners.

Lazio were holding on to the lead given to them by Czech midfield man Pavel Nedved's fortunate first half strike, when Pires ran half the length of the field to equalise with only three minutes remaining.

And with Shakhtar Donetsk securing a win Sparta Prague, it meant Arsenal stamped their passport into the next group stage of the competition.

Arsenal survived injuries, ill-luck and an explosive second half to pull a point out of an encounter in which eveything appeared to have gone against them.

Pires was short of options when he picked up a pass from Sylvain Wiltord, but with Lazio stretched he ran on before lifting a composed finish over goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi.

Lazio
Lazio celebrate
Arsenal survived a scare with virtually the last kick of the match when Lazio had the ball in the net again, but their sheer spirit and single-mindedness earned that stroke of good fortune.

It was no more than Arsenal deserved for a performance that was a perfect example of stubborn resilience and occasional brilliance, especially as they were robbed of back injury victims David Seaman and Tony Adams.

Arsenal were forced to field goalkeeping elder statesman John Lukic as replacement for Seaman, but overcame all handicaps to pick up a priceless point.

Defeat would have been harsh on Arsenal, who were subjected to the disgrace of hearing Kanu, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry subjected to constant racial abuse from the Rome crowd.

Arsenal opened in a fashion that made light of the double blow that robbed them of England duo Seaman and Adams.

After the veteran Lukic - 40 in December and starting his first game for more than three years - had blocked an early corner, Arsenal took command.

Gilles Grimandi headed Silvinho's free kick inches wide, then shot powerfully, but straight at Lazio goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi.

Lazio were already feeling the frustration of their own supporters inside the Olympic Stadium when they took the lead against the run of play after 23 minutes.

Nedved and Silvinho challenged on the edge of the area, and the ball looped over Lukic off a combination of the pair, and over the line via the cross-bar.

Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger watched anxiously
Czech Nedved claimed the goal, but Silvinho contributed unwittingly as Arsenal cursed their luck.

Arsenal remained composed despite the setback, and were within inches of restoring equality after 35 minutes.

The Brazilian, who scored a brilliant solo winner for Arsenal against Sparta Prague in Czechoslovakia, almost did it again.

He cut inside two defenders, and was only denied by the diving Peruzzi, with the rebounding drifting narrowly wide.

Lazio - clearly inspired during the interval by coach Sven Goran Eriksson - opened the second period at a fierce tempo.

And they should have doubled their lead inside a minute after the break, but Simone Inzaghi dragged a left foot finish across the face of goal with only Lukic to beat.

The game almost exploded into anarchy after 55 minutes, when Grimandi left Argentinian Diego Simeone nursing a cut eye with a clear swing of his arm.

Simeone - best remembered in England for the clash which saw David Beckham sent off in France 98 - was outraged.

And as players from both sides argued, Martin Keown and Alessandro Nesta were singled out and booked by German referee Hellmut Krug.

John Lukic
Lukic saves from Mihajlovic
Simeone returned with his head swathed in bandages, but was clearly a man intent on revenge as he charged around looking to even the score with Grimandi.

Lazio removed Inzaghi after 65 minutes, replacing him with 30m-plus summer signings Hernan Crespo, fit again after a thigh injury.

Arsene Wenger took the opportunity to make a substitution of his own, taking off Grimandi and sending on Cameroon Olympic gold medal winner Lauren - perhaps to protect the Frenchman from the rampaging and angry Simeone.

Arsenal were battling against the clock when fate and Pires took a hand to equalise.

They survived that one final scare when Lazio had a goal ruled out in the dying seconds - but it was a stroke of luck they richly deserved.


Lazio: Peruzzi, Negro, Nesta, Mihajlovic, Pancaro, Simeone, Veron, Stankovic, Nedved, Inzaghi, Salas. Subs: Marchegiani, Lopez, Crespo, Favalli, Couto, Lombardo, Baronio.

Arsenal: Lukic, Dixon, Luzhny, Keown, Silvinho, Parlour, Grimandi, Vieira, Ljungberg, Kanu, Henry. Subs: Taylor, Adams, Pires, Wiltord, Lauren, Vivas, Cole.

Referee: H Krug (Germany)

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