After we were paired with Oxford United in the FA Cup third-round draw, many Gooners would have cast their minds back to our last meeting with the U’s, nearly exactly 20 years ago.
On a crisp January day in 2003, a slice of club history occurred when Dennis Bergkamp netted his 100th goal for us in a 2-0 win in the third round of the competition, as the team from the fourth tier pushed us all the way at Highbury.
Writing in the matchday programme, Arsene Wenger chuckled when the draw was made, saying: “I saw how the Oxford players reacted when the draw was made, I thought it was really funny when they were jumping around the dressing room… it was one of the images of the year for me.”
Someone who had seen their celebration cut short was Bergkamp, who was itching to reach three figures as three days earlier he had seen a strike against Chelsea taken off him and credited as a Marcel Desially own goal.
And after an early scare which saw Chris Basham have a goal chalked off for offside just two minutes in, the Flying Dutchman had his moment. On 15 minutes his century of Gunners goals was complete when he was played in by Francis Jeffers and finished with typical aplomb.
The England striker was then denied by our future goalkeeper coach Andy Woodman, when he was teed up by our current Sporting Director Edu, allowing the Division Three outfit to stay in the game until deep into the cup tie.
However, our pressure told and the second goal arrived on 75 minutes when Robert Pires’ corner was diverted into his own net by Scott McNiven to ensure our safe passage into round four.
That saw Wenger feel confident enough to introduce David Bentley for his first-team debut, and the victory started our cup run that season, culminating with victory in the final over Southampton at the Millennium Stadium.
That January day belonged to Bergkamp though, who reflected on his milestone in the subsequent programme. “It’s a select group of players who have done it,” he said. “I think it’s quite something, especially nowadays because you need to stay at a club for a few years to achieve it. It is something that you could say I’m quite happy about!”
Our team that day:
Seaman, Luzhny, Keown, Upson, van Bronckhorst, Toure (Bentley 77), Svard (Gilberto 77), Edu, Pires, Jeffers, Bergkamp (Wiltord 80).
Subs not used: Taylor, Stepanovs.
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