Friday, February 13, 2015

13 February 1999 - A Lesson For France Unheeded

On 13 February 1999, Nigerian forward Kanu made a memorable—and controversial—debut for Arsenal, who had just signed the 22-year old from Inter earlier that month.

The Gunners were hosting Sheffield United in the 5th round of the FA Cup and had taken a 1-0 lead thanks to a 28th-minute goal from midfielder Patrick Vieira. Sheffield United equalized shortly after the break with a 48th-minute header from Brazilian forward Marcelo, so the score was even at 1-1 when Kanu (above at far left) came on in the 66th minute.

With about 10 minutes left in the match, a United player went down with an injury just as Dennis Bergkamp was chasing down a ball played back to the United keeper. The keeper kicked the ball into touch and the official halted play briefly while the injured player received treatment. When Arsenal's Ray Parlour took the ensuing throw, most of the players on the pitch expected him to give possession back to United.

Nobody told Kanu, however, who received the throw and raced down the field and crossed the ball for his teammate, winger Marc Overmars (above, second from left), to slot home. United's players and staff protested, but the goal stood and Arsenal emerged 2-1 winners.

After the match, Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger agreed that the final goal had been scored unfairly and proposed that the match be replayed. After some initial hesitation, the FA relented and the replay was held ten days later at Highbury, where Arsenal again won 2-1.

When former Gunner Thierry Henry later scored a controversial goal for France to eliminate the Republic of Ireland from 2010 World Cup qualification, Wenger urged his home country to offer a replay, but the FFF declined.

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