Southampton 0-2 Arsenal
atrick Vieira was rapped by Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger after a second-half bust up with Matt Le Tissier. But while the Gunners boss came close to anger, Southampton ace Le Tissier lept to the defence of the French midfielder. In an off-the-ball incident, Vieira appeared to shove and lash out at the Saints' superstar who went crashing to the floor.
Wenger said: "When you are a professional, you have to hold your nerves and do what is in the best interests of the team. Punching someone is not in the best interests of the team, but I will be looking at a video of the incident."
Le Tissier appeared to act as a peacemaker as referee Winter brandished yellow rather than red. And Le Tissier said: "He didn't punch me. He caught me late and I flung out an arm which caught him across the face and he reacted. We shook hands on it afterwards and there is no problem between us."
But Vieira, particularly in the first half, pulled the strings in Arsenal's midfield as they levelled on points with Liverpool as the pair chase leaders Manchester United. Wenger insists that the Championship could be beyond his Gunners.
"I said that we would have to win four in a row to keep in with a chance and now we have won three. If we keep doing that we will be OK, but Manchester United are still in a good position."
Wenger had young stand-in's Hughes and Shaw to thank for the goals that kept their run going. Arsenal were without suspended Wright, Bould and Dixon. Also Merson and Seaman were missing through injury and Wenger was forced to give rookie Harper his debut to a goalkeeping injury crisis. But the Gunners proved the depth in their squad and the faith shown in youth paid off.
A right wing cross by Parlour was dropped by Taylor and Hughes slammed home his first Premiership goal off the goalkeepers body. Then 23 year old Shaw struck his second of the season midway through the second half. A loose ball from Le Tissier was eventually picked up by Parlour on the right. The midfielders low cross was diverted by Shaw beyond the hapless Taylor.
Wenger crowded the midfield when he immediately took off Shaw and replaced him with Garde. But Saints never really troubled a comfortable looking Gunners.
Harper impressed and made a superb point-blank save from Le Tissier just on half-time which appeared to break Southampton hearts. Wenger said: "The young players came in and did well at this level. I was pleased with them."
The Arsenal boss will be giving 19-year-old Austrian goalkeeper Alexander Manninger a two-day trial at Highbury. Wenger said: "We need younger goalkeepers, talented ones, and I have heard he is very good."
Saints boss Graham Souness reckons Arsenal could still be a good bet for the Championship. He said: "They look impressive to me."
Last Updated: Saturday March 22, 1997 19:55:54 -0500
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