7 August 1999
Arsenal 2 Leicester City 1: The opening of the 1999/2000 season.
This was Thierry Henry’s first ever game for Arsenal – for having not signed until 3 August 1999 he did not play in any of the pre-season games. Henry was the sixth and final transfer of the summer – the others being Luzhny, Volz, Malz, Sylvinho, and Suker,
None of these played however and Arsenal’s line up was made up of the old team from last season:
Dixon, Keown, Petit, Winterburn
Parlour, Vieira, Grimandi, Ljungberg
And so for this opening game Henry was on the bench, coming on as a sub at the start of the second half as a sub for Ljungberg. Henry had a very early attempt, knocking a volley over the bar, but then Leicester took an undeserved lead from Cottee on 57 minutes.
Parlour nearly scored from the right, but Flowers tipped it around. But the bus parking was now starting to show as Flowers, remembering the tactics but forgetting the rules, was penalised for holding the ball too long. Arsenal got a free-kick two yards inside the penalty area.
The rule, interestingly, is still there, but no one takes much notice of it any more, which is a shame.
Thus the Leicester bus, which had already been fairly stationery in the Leicester area now became a fixture, until on 66 minutes Bergkamp controlled the ball with his left foot and finished with his right, as if the bus simply were not there.
Thierry Henry went close a couple more times, and then Marc Overmars came on, but the bus, although battered bruised and with all the windows broken, held firm… until Henry headed the ball towards the goal, and Frank Sinclair misheaded into his own net.
Arsene Wenger said afterwards: “It was important to get three points so to win with a last minute own goal I am, of course, feeling some relief. I felt we could have scored twice just before that though so i think we created a lot of pressure and chances.
“Leicester were very sharp and defended very well. They will feel unfortunate to lose after such hard work. But I think we showed that we have many attacking options now and we were able to sustain the pressure even when we tired physically.”
The following day the Observer ran the headline: “Verdict: Low-key start for Arsenal new boys”
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