Steve Walsh

One Dramatic Night At Filbert Street vs. Arsenal

Twenty-four years on, delves into the archives to recount one of Leicester City's greatest games in Premier League history as the Foxes twice came from behind late on to draw with Arsenal at Filbert Street.
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Few Premier League games have provided as much drama and entertainment as Leicester City's 3-3 draw with Arsenal on 27 August, 1997.

Both sides headed into the game at Filbert Street unbeaten in the league after each claiming seven points from their opening three matches of the campaign. 

Under Martin O’Neill, Leicester made a bright start to their second top-flight season, beating Aston Villa and Liverpool and holding champions Manchester United to a goalless draw at Old Trafford. 

But City knew they would face a tough test against Arsène Wenger’s new-look Arsenal side, who were going in search of their first Premier League title under the Frenchman's management.

Wenger had added the likes of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit to the Gunners’ midfield ranks, alongside Dutch forward Dennis Bergkamp. More on him later.

O’Neill utilised his trusted 3-5-2 system that had served the Club so well during their maiden campaign in the Premier League, which culminated in a ninth-placed finish and a League Cup triumph.

The Northern Irishman had put together a combative and talented side, spearheaded by an emerging, young talent: Emile Heskey.


City & Arsenal's Filbert Street Epic

Take a trip down memory lane and enjoy the action as Leicester City and Arsenal play out a thrilling 3-3 draw in 1997.

City made a bright start to the game against their illustrious opponents, with Steve Claridge’s tricky run almost producing a chance for 19-year-old Heskey. It was the visitors, though, who struck first.

Netherlands international Bergkamp took one touch to get a short corner out of his feet, before a sublime curling effort which nestled into the far, top corner, in front of a stunned Kop.

“Oh that is special!” cried commentator Jon Champion as the ball hit the net.

It was a classy finish to fire Arsenal in front with just nine minutes on the clock, showing why he was widely regarded as one of European football’s most gifted players during the late 1990s.

The fiercely competitive nature of the game soon became apparent. Tackles flew in from Muzzy Izzet, on Vieira, before Ray Parlour received a booking for his late challenge on City's No.6.

Lee Dixon then tussled with Heskey in the Arsenal box, but neither side’s claims for a foul were heeded.

Arsenal could have taken a bigger lead into the break had Bergkamp added a second when his sweetly-struck shot whistled just past the post, but as it was, just the one goal separated the two sides.

The pattern of play failed to change and, after Parlour’s long-range strike forced Kasey Keller into a diving save, Bergkamp did get his and Arsenal’s second, on the hour-mark.

The Gunners broke down the middle with Parlour racing clear of Leicester’s midfield, before laying the ball off for Vieira to place a first-time cross into the path of Bergkamp.

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Matt Elliott

Centre-half Matt Elliott scored City's first equaliser to square the game up at 2-2.

He took a single touch to move the ball into the box and then flicked it past Keller, via a deflection, into the back of the net. Surely now, it seemed, the three points would be heading back to the capital.

Warning signs were there for the away side when Heskey’s cross was met by wing-back Steve Guppy, who couldn’t quite divert the ball on target, but no one was prepared for what was to come.

O’Neill had seen enough and with his last throw of the dice, brought on Garry Parker and Tony Cottee to replace Robbie Savage and Izzet.  It was Parker who created the first opening.

His cross caused confusion in the Arsenal backline, allowing Heskey to tap home into an empty net from close range, with David Seaman stranded after Dixon failed to deal with the long ball.

That goal, six minutes from time, was the very least Leicester deserved for their valiant efforts, which also rejuvenated the Filbert Street crowd in the latter moments of the game.

Skipper Steve Walsh then showed Leicester’s danger from set pieces as he headed a corner over the bar, and soon appeared as an auxiliary centre forward, but time appeared to be running out for City.

As it moved into injury time, Arsenal looked all but set to take the three points back to Highbury. Matt Elliott, though, had other ideas.

A hopeful, aerial ball was flicked on to the centre-half and as it fell to him on the edge of the box, he skilfully moved it onto his trusted right foot before unleashing a low drive into the bottom corner via a deflection, sending the Foxes faithful into rapture. 

City’s determination had been rewarded - it was all square at 2-2, with the Leicester supporters sensing that their team could somehow go on and win it.

That belief soon evaporated thanks to a jaw-dropping piece of individual skill from Bergkamp.

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Dennis Bergkamp

Bergkamp celebrates his sublime hat-trick goal.

There didn’t seem too much on when David Pleat played a hopeful punt forward into the Leicester box, but the Arsenal forward managed to control the ball in midair with his right foot, flick it past Elliott with his left, take one more touch to settle himself and then slot it into the far corner past a helpless Keller, all while Elliott stood in close attention.

The technique was sublime and the finish was exquisite.

It would have been an unbelievable goal in any game, but in the context of this encounter, not least because that was his third of evening, it was truly magical and worthy of winning any game.

But a winner it would not be as City once again showed their powers of recovery, even deeper into added on time.

As this topsy-turvy game moved into the final minute of stoppage time, Leicester won a corner.

Parker’s centre found Walsh, who had rose highest amongst a sea of bodies in the box, and he played a headed one-two with Spencer Prior before nodding in the latest of late equalisers. 

Pandemonium ensued around the ground as City’s captain fantastic helped his side to pull off one of the most unbelievable double-comebacks in Premier League history. 

With four goals in the last six minutes and three of them coming in stoppage time, you’d be forgiven for thinking the match was played out in video game format.

The twists and turns of this energy-sapping, but enthralling contest sparked the sort of interchangeable elation and despair that has rarely been replicated.

City battled their way to a very respectable 10th-place finish in the table at the end of that campaign, securing another season in the top flight, but no single game would match the drama seen by 21,089 fans on that late summer evening at Filbert Street. 

The Gunners, meanwhile, went on to lift the coveted Premier League trophy in May, finishing just a single point ahead of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in Wenger’s first full season in charge.

Leicester City Crest





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