By Tony Attwood
It is reported that sometime in the 1982-83 season, Ajax got a penalty, Johan Cruyff strode up to take it, but instead of taking it as a shot passed the ball to Jasper Olsen who scored past the bemused keeper.
On 22 October 2005 Pires and Henry tried the same thing.
But first before the match Henry had been presented with a silver cannon by Ian Wright, the man he has replaced as Arsenal’s record goalscorer. That in itself was memorable as Wright stood on the pitch expecting Henry to come out, but Henry kept him waiting and waiting. Wright ended up kicking imaginary footballs.
And then within the game not only did Pires and Henry try the Cruyff trick, but they screwed it up totally. Dennis Bergkamp had been brought down as was the wont of Stephen Jordan. Pires passed the ball, but not in the right place, the ball trickled forwards, and as the keeper started to move Pires touched the ball again – which is against the rules – and that was that.
Fortunately Robert Pires’ had already scored a second-half penalty after Thierry Henry was fouled by David James, and that was enough to beat Manchester City and for it to be the 500th Premiership goal at Highbury.
I remember thinking as the game drifted on that if Man C got one back, no one would ever live the fiasco of the penalty down, and indeed that seemed the scenario when Darius Vassell put the ball in Arsenal’s net from a Barton cross but was offside.
So it was a day for journalists getting out the rule books (a rarity in itself) and printing out the rules. The BBC told us that a penalty is legally taken if
- the ball moves forward
- the penalty taker does not kick the ball a second time until the ball is touched by another player.
But it was alright in the end. Henry had scored the 186 and his larking about with Pires on this day, won’t be remembered as much as his overtaking Wright.
Apart from the penalties and presentation, this was not much of a match. Man C had come for a draw and maybe a snatch raid on a winner, and Arsenal couldn’t find the way through.
At the end the Man C manager Stuart Pearce said, I’m disappointed we didn’t get any points but I think our fans know we’re not a walkover any more.”
Arsenal: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Cygan, Clichy, Fabregas, Flamini, Silva, Pires, Bergkamp, Henry.
Subs Not Used: Van Persie, Senderos, Almunia, Owusu-Abeyie, Eboue.
Booked: Pires, Clichy, Bergkamp.
Referee: M Riley .