Glorious May day outings of past are Double reason to celebrate for all Arsenal supporters
- Credit: PA
Arsenal supporters have double reason to celebrate on the anniversaries of two of their memorable FA Cup Final successes this week.
The first of them allowed Bertie Mee’s Gunners to complete the first Double in the club’s history, following a 2-1 win over Liverpool at Wembley Stadium in 1971.
The other saw Arsene Wenger’s men see off London rivals Chelsea 2-0 in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in 2002 – as Wembley was rebuilt – before completing a second Double under the Frenchman and third of all time.
Having ended their 17-year wait for silverware by claiming the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1970, Arsenal went on to be crowned league champions 12 months later ahead of Leeds United, clinching the title with a 1-0 win over fierce rivals Tottenham at White Hart Lane on a Monday night.
The following weekend – on May 8, 1971 – they met Liverpool under the Twin Towers, having knocked out Yeovil Town, Portsmouth, Manchester City, Leicester City and Stoke City, with three ties needing replays, en route to the final.
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Neither side was able to break the deadlock in normal time on a hot, sunny day in north London, although George Graham headed against the crossbar with 12 minutes left.
And Arsenal then fell behind just two minutes into the extra period when Steve Heighway beat Bob Wilson at his near post.
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That was soon forgotten as Eddie Kelly scrambled an equaliser to become the first substitute to score in FA Cup final history, with Graham also claiming a touch to deceive Ray Clemence.
And Charlie George fired home the winner from 20 yards with eight minutes remaining to cap an historic 64-game season for the Gunners.
Fast forward 31 years and they were at it again, only this time they were making history across the border in Wales.
Graham had led the club to two league titles (1989, 1991), the League Cup (1987), an FA Cup and League Cup double (1993) and the European Cup Winners’ Cup (1994), before Wenger began his reign with the Double in 1997/98.
They reached the 2002 FA Cup final by beating Watford, holders Liverpool – who had come from behind to beat the Gunners in stoppage time in the 2001 final – Gillingham, Newcastle (in a replay) and Middlesbrough and met Chelsea on May 4.
After taking time to find their rhythm in the first half they saw Lauren head just over from Sylvain Wiltord’s cross as the scoreline remained blank at the break.
David Seaman denied Eidur Gudjohnsen before the hour as Chelsea enjoyed their best spell of the match beforeArsenal got their noses in front on 70 minutes.
After Tony Adams had cleared, Wiltord played a reverse pass to Ray Parlour in plenty of space in midfield and, as the Chelsea defenders backed off, the England international took aim from 25 yards and saw his shot curled over the diving Carlo Cudicini and find the top right corner of the net.
Arsenal made sure of success on 80 minutes when Ljungberg produced a forward run, evading the challenge of John Terry – who had started on the bench before replacing Celestine Babayaro at half-time – and bent the ball past Cudicini from the edge of the penalty area.
“We were very frustrated last year,” said Wenger. “We have shown a lot of strength to come back here, beating Liverpool and Newcastle on the way.”
But the job was only half done as Arsenal were set to head to Old Trafford on the following Wednesday to take on Manchester United in their penultimate match of the Premier League campaign.
“This team knows how to win. I said three or four months ago that we will win the championship and the FA Cup,” added Wenger, whose words turned out to be prophetic as the Gunners claimed a 1-0 win on May 8 thanks to Wiltord’s goal.
They finished seven points clear of runners-up Liverpool and Wenger signed a new four-year contract as manager.
How they lined up
Arsenal 1971: Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Bob McNab, Peter Storey (Eddie Kelly 64), Frank McLintock, Peter Simpson, George Armstrong, George Graham, John Radford, Ray Kennedy, Charlie George.
Arsenal 2002: David Seaman, Lauren, Sol Campbell, Tony Adams, Ashley Cole, Sylvain Wiltord (Martin Keown 89), Ray Parlour, Patrick Vieira, Freddie Ljungberg, Dennis Bergkamp (Edu 72), Thierry Henry (Kanu 81). Unused subs: Richard Wright, Lee Dixon.