On This Day: Chelsea made the headlines by breaking leaders Arsenal’s unbeaten run.
1990-91 saw the Gunners shoot to the top of the English First Division table with a 23-game undefeated record, winning 14 and drawing eight from opening day to the start of February.
During that time, efforts from Sweden’s Anders Limpar and England’s Alan Smith would help the North London side score valuable victories at Old Trafford and Maine Road, while Everton and Liverpool would both be beaten at Highbury, which was becoming quite the fortress.
Chelsea meanwhile had experienced an occasionally torrid time in their own First Division campaign, hammered 4-1 at Arsenal in September of 1990 and suffering three successive defeats (to Leeds United, Luton Town and Everton) from Christmas to New Year’s Day.
Nevertheless, the New Year would usher in new optimism; and on this particular February matchday in SW6, the London derby day spoils would belong to the boys in blue, as Arsenal’s lengthy unbeaten streak was sensationally broken at a jubilant Stamford Bridge.
With the Blues’ Dave Beasant making his 100th appearance between the sticks, Arsenal’s in-form Limpar and Perry Groves would both pose a threat to the Chelsea net, as the visitors looked to add to a 42-goal haul that had helped them pull clear at the top of Division One.
However, the Gunners had been rattled by a bruising clash with Leeds in midweek, leaving a fresher Chelsea side to create their own opportunities; homegrown striker Graham Stuart forcing a terrific save from David Seaman, as the hosts outlined their intentions of an upset.
Ultimately it was Stuart who would break the deadlock, leaping high to head home, to the glee of the home support. By this point, Arsenal had been weakened by the loss of Steve Bould and the opener was preceded by a level of chaos uncharacteristic to the notoriously watertight Gunners backline (coming off five clean sheets in their previous six outings).
Smelling blood, Chelsea would surge forward in pursuit of a killer second, with Kerry Dixon terrorising Andy Linighan on the right flank before setting up Dennis Wise; only for the future cup-winning club captain to fire above the crossbar. Then, with only a minute to play, it was Dixon himself who decisively doubled his team’s advantage, receiving Damian Matthew’s unselfish pass at close quarters and dispatching a simple finish past Seaman from ten yards.
Alan Smith would claim a consolation moments later, but it was too little, too late for the leaders, who were subject to the one and only defeat of their successful title-winning season.
29,094 made the pilgrimage to Stamford Bridge that day to see Chelsea break the streak. For Arsenal, the wait for an ‘invincible’ campaign would have to wait for 13 more years. AC
Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1
2 February 1991
Chelsea: Dave Beasant, Steve Clarke, Gareth Hall, Ken Monkou, Tony Dorigo, Graeme Le Saux, Damian Matthew, Graham Stuart, Andy Townsend, Dennis Wise, Kerry Dixon.
Substitutes: John Bumstead (for Le Saux) Kevin Wilson (for Dixon).
Arsenal: David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Andy Linighan, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Davis, Anders Limpar, Paul Merson, Michael Thomas, Perry Groves, Alan Smith.
Substitutes: David Hillier (for Bould), Kevin Campbell (for Limpar).