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Wednesday, 26 December, 2001, 13:59 GMT
Arsenal stun Chelsea
Stanic battles with Arsenal's Vieira
Stanic battles with Arsenal's Vieira
Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea
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Arsenal came from behind to beat Chelsea and take top spot in the Premiership after a game of fluctuating fortunes at Highbury.

Chelsea looked on course to extend their recent good run when Frank Lampard's strike gave them an interval lead.

But rejuvenated Arsenal - fresh from a brilliant win at Liverpool - staged a stirring second-half comeback to edge out their London title rivals and record a crucial victory.

It is easy to make changes when you know you have world class players on the bench
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Sol Campbell established Arsenal's platform for victory when he equalised with his first goal for the club early in the second half.

And Arsenal's comeback was complete when substitute Sylvain Wiltord, a scourge of Chelsea in the past, struck the winner with 20 minutes left.

Arsenal welcomed back Patrick Vieira after suspension, but even the brilliant Frenchman could not lift the Gunners out of a lack-lustre first-half performance.

Martin Keown and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink - involved in a controversial confrontation earlier this season when the Chelsea striker was sent off - renewed acquaintances when the Arsenal defender was booked for a clattering challenge.

Chelsea's Lampard celebrates
Chelsea's Lampard celebrates

But goalkeepers Stuart Taylor and Carlo Cudicini were virtual spectators until Lampard gave Chelsea the lead on the half-hour.

Arsenal were angry when Chelsea were awarded a debatable throw, and their frustration was complete when the ball landed at the feet of Lampard, who swept a right foot finish past Taylor.

Chelsea almost doubled their lead when Ashley Cole headed Hasselbaink's corner off the line as Claudio Ranieri's side dominated.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger made a substitution during the interval, replacing injured Ray Parlour with Giovanni Van Bronckhorst.

And it reaped an instant dividend when Campbell powered Robert Pires' corner past Cudicini after 48 minutes for his first goal since his summer move from Spurs.

  Key moments
30 mins: Frank Lampard fires Chelsea into the lead
48 mins: Sol Campbell heads Arsenal level
69 mins: Substitute Sylvain Wiltord sweeps home Arsenal's winner

The game exploded within minutes, initially when Hasselbaink claimed he had been flattened off the ball by Vieira.

And players from both sides were involved when Graeme Le Saux, with a grim inevitability, decided to exact retribution on Vieira seconds later.

Le Saux was booked by referee Graham Barber, along with Arsenal's Kanu, in the resulting melee.

Wenger delivered another influential substitution after 66 minutes, replacing the subdued Freddie Ljungberg with Wiltord.

And within three minutes Wiltord, who changed an FA Cup tie against Chelsea at Highbury in similar circumstances last season, had put Arsenal in front.

Mario Melchiot only partially cleared Van Bronckhorst's free-kick, and Wiltord was lurking on the edge of box to score through a crowded penalty area.

Chelsea upped the tempo in the closing stages, but Arsenal were in no mood to surrender a vital victory.

Arsenal: Taylor, Lauren, Keown, Campbell, Cole, Ljungberg (Wiltord 67), Parlour (van Bronckhorst 45), Vieira, Pires, Henry, Kanu (Bergkamp 73).
Subs Not Used: Luzhny, Wright.
Booked: Keown, Kanu.
Goals: Campbell 49, Wiltord 71.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot, Terry, Gallas, Babayaro, Petit, Stanic (Dalla Bona 73), Lampard, Le Saux (Zola 82), Gudjohnsen (Forssell 82), Hasselbaink.
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Jokanovic.
Booked: Stanic, Cudicini, Le Saux, Babayaro.
Goals: Lampard 31.

Attendance: 38,079.

Referee: G Barber (Tring).

BBC Sport's Simon Brotherton
"Wiltord made the difference"
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"The most important thing for us was to win at home"
Arsenal's Thierry Henry
"It was important to get the three points"
Chelsea's Frank Lampard
"The game changed in the second half"
Links to more Eng Prem stories are at the foot of the page.


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