By Richard Clarke
This was Dennis Bergkamp's day.
His Arsenal side neatly side-stepped the banana skin of Oxford United in this FA Cup third round tie at Highbury.
The Division Three promotion-chasers may have been dressed partly in yellow but there was never going to be a slip-up today after our legendary Dutchman registered his 100th goal for the club.
Many thought he got it on New Year's Day against Chelsea but our ninth-minute opener eventually went down as an own goal from Marcel Desailly.
Today, there was no doubt who prodded the FA Cup holders ahead from an astute pass from Francis Jeffers on the quarter-hour. The cool finish was typical Bergkamp.
We controlled the game after that and an own goal from Scott McNiven ended Oxford's challenge midway through the second half.
So Round Four here we come. The draw will be made at Monday lunchtime, see Arsenal.com for details.
A number of injuries and niggles meant some of Arsène Wenger's team changes before kick-off were enforced while others were tactical.
Jeffers, Kolo Toure, Matthew Upson, Sebastian Svard and Edu were given a chance to impress from the start. Eighteen-year-old midfielder David Bentley was named on the bench.
Oxford began brightly and even had the ball in the net in the second minute through Steve Basham but referee Clive Wilkes had long since blown for offside.
Toure replied with venom, arrowing a low shot through the area that trickled past the right-hand post of Oxford keeper Andy Woodman.
Frankly the game went quiet after that with our side containing the visitors' fire but creating little ourselves.
Then, in the 15th minute, it happened - Bergkamp's century. Svard's clever dummy helped open the door then Jeffers retained possession in the area before clipping the ball to the Dutchman who stabbed the ball over the advancing keeper.
After signing from Inter Milan in July 1995, his ton came up in his 294th appearance for the club. Well done Dennis - a true Arsenal great.
Toure nearly stabbed a second soon afterwards and Jeffers hit the side-netting as we began to dominate.
Our former Everton striker had a gilt-edged opportunity to make it 2-0 just before the half-hour but, after racing clear, his low drive hit the legs of the advancing Woodman.
A few minutes later, Gio van Bronckhorst provided Jeffers with a virtually identical opportunity. But this time the pass was lofted and the 22-year-old lifted his shot over Woodman but also over the bar.
In response, McNiven skied an effort over the bar for Oxford just before the break. It was the extent of their chances before the break.
Eight minutes into the second half, Martin Keown dithered in front of goal after the ball fell to him at a corner and the opportunity to score against his home town club went begging.
As one might expect, we were still in charge. But, while our approach play was good, the final ball was lacking with move after moving breaking down on the edge of Oxford area.
Still there were positives, Svard looked very composed in central midfield and many others of those in red-and-white were playing themselves nicely back into form.
In the end we were handed a second when McNiven inadvertently put the ball into his own net from Pires corner with 23 minutes left. It effectively ended the contest.
Ironically Oxford's first legitimate chance came a few seconds later but unmarked substitute Andy Scott nodded tamely into David Seaman's hand from five yards out.
Wenger brought on Bentley with 13 minutes left for his first taste of first-team action. His opening two touches were a dangerous, curling cross and a well-worked chip that extended Woodman. "There's only one David Bentley," sang the North Bank.
Edu and Wiltord might have added another at the death but, in the end, both sides could go home happy. A hard-working, resilient Oxford side were a credit to their division, but we have gone through to Round Four.
Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source
26 May 2004
Dennis turns in the Oxford box.....and fires in his 100th Arsenal goalThe Dutchman celebrates his achievementAnd the scoreboard joins in!The ball flies in from a corner....and McNiven puts through his own netPires takes on Bobby FordDavid Bentley makes his Arsenal debutDennis Bergkamp scores the opening goal against Oxford
BUY THIS PICTUREDennis Bergkamp celebrates the opening goal against Oxford
BUY THIS PICTURE