The FA Cup often provides weird and wonderful situations but in 1999, Arsenal’s beloved former ground Highbury witnessed one of the strangest episodes in the competition's history.
After drawing Sheffield United in the 5th round of the FA Cup, the previous season's League and FA Cup holders Arsenal looked to continue where they left off from the previous season. With goals from Patrick Vieira and Sheffield United’s Marcelo, the game was in the balance, and had all the ingredients for a cup classic.
However, the game will forever be remembered for Arsenal’s second goal. With 15 minutes to go, Blades striker, Morris, fell in the Arsenal penalty box - grasping his outstretched leg. In good faith, Sheffield would kick the ball off the pitch, for Ray Parlour to return the ball once the player had received some treatment. However, new Arsenal signing Kanu, unaware of the sporting tradition, read the situation differently - breaking away from Parlour's throw in, before passing it to Overmars for the winning goal. Bewildered and outraged, Sheffield players surrounded both Kanu and the referee, calling for the goal to be written off. In contrast to their anger, the Arsenal senior players were clearly embarrassed, creating a confusing aura in the stadium.
After a 6 minute pause, officials pleaded for the Sheffield team to return to the field, so that the game could officially finish. However, before the game had finished, the Arsenal staff and FA had agreed to replay the fixture, in a gesture of true Corinthian Spirit. Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, mentioned his displeasure in a press conference shortly after the match.
“I offered the replay, because it wasn’t right to win in that way. It wasn’t the Arsenal way. We want to win all our games but nobody cheated on purpose”.
Arsenal went on to win the return fixture 2-1, with goals from Dennis Bergkamp and Marc Overmars overcoming a late consolation goal.