1999 saw the highly anticipated clash between two London rivals – Chelsea and Arsenal – at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup and the unbelievable hat-trick of Nwankwo Kanu.
Arsenal under Arsene Wenger would eventually finish the season in second place, 18 points behind Manchester United. That served as a reminder of the side’s inconsistent performances but the football was still dazzling on occasion.
The most memorable highlight of that year was probably the hat trick from Nwankwo Kanu, who in a 15-minute spell, made the impossible happen in the FA Cup in front of thousands of disbelieving eyes.
Chelsea were two goals to the good with contributions from Tore Andre Flo and Dan Petrescu and Arsenal were on the rack with the clock counting down and an FA Cup defeat looking likely. Nwankwo Kanu had other ideas, the long gangly Nigerian whom many had written off created a staggering piece of individual magic.
The first goal was a reasonably easy toe-poke from a through ball from Marc Overmars (75). The second was a delivery from the wide right, again from Overmars. Kanu took a touch, dropped his shoulder, dinked to his right to find space and hit the ball low and hard (83). Typical striker’s goals up to this point, nothing elaborate or fancy either but Kanu was saving his best until the 90th minute.
Kanu won the ball back when it was kicked into him on the touchline. The ricochet set him off in an attacking position, but there was far more to do as De Goey came charging out to smother the ball. Kanu simply jiggled out of his clutches in line with the goalposts but was faced with the most ridiculous of angles.
He took a step forward and hit a sweet right-footed shot up in the air and into the right-hand corner of the net as Frank Leboeuf and Marcel Desailly looked on. The crowd were stunned as Martin Tyler unleashed the most delicious pun of his career “Kanu believe it !”
It’s simply one of those Arsenal goals that will line up alongside Bergkamp’s Newcastle goal, Giroud’s Scorpion kick and Henry’s solo goal against Spurs.