ARSENAL 2 LEICESTER CITY 1
ARSENAL provided the perfect finale to the perfect season with a stirring second-half fightback against Leicester to write their name into the history books. What Preston North End had achieved before them back in 1888-89 in going through an entire league campaign unbeaten, so Arsenal's 'New Invincibles' duly emulated over 38 unforgettable games.
It was not without a few unexpected late additions to the script, with Leicester seizing the lead against the run of play through former Arsenal striker Paul Dickov after 26 minutes. With Arsenal still trailing at the break, thoughts of Seamus Darby denying Kerry their five-in-arow in 1982 and Devon Loch's fall in the final straight of the Grand National sprung to mind.
However, Arsenal displayed the resilience which carried them through 37 league games unbeaten as they mounted a determined comeback. Thierry Henry steadied their nerves with a confidently-dispatched penalty, awarded by referee Paul Durkin in his final top-flight appearance, just two minutes after the restart.
It was left to Arsenal's other main source of inspiration this season to secure their winner. With 22 minutes left Patrick Vieira capitalised on a magical ball by Dennis Bergkamp to beat Ian Walker and the rest, as they say, is now history.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted: "I am so very proud. You can't believe it is possible [remaining unbeaten in a season] until you get there. I always had that dream and to fulfil it is marvellous. It is my third title and the best one. Not to lose is amazing.
"We always want to improve, we always want to get better. I am confident this team is hungry for more." Arsenal striker Thierry Henry saluted his teammates for clinching "our place in history". "It has still not finally gone in yet. It may take 20 years for people to realise what we have done. We wanted to do something special and now we have done it. It is something more than amazing.
"It does not matter if someone does it again because we will be the first to have done it [in the modern era]. That will go down in history. We must always remember that this season we were unbeatable." Arsenal had started confidently enough against a Leicester side deploying a five-man midfield and suffocating the home team's supply lines. Indeed, there was still little warning of what was to come when Frank Sinclair embarked on a surging run on the counter-attack with 26 minutes gone.
It was scarcely believable as he weaved his way past Vieira and floated an inviting cross to the far post where the diminutive Dickov was lurking to beat Jens Lehmann with a header.
Arsenal pulled themselves together in similar circumstances a few weeks earlier after trailing 2-1 at the break against Liverpool ? and they did so again on this occasion.
Soon after the interval, Bergkamp's lofted pass was brought down by Ashley Cole inside the penalty area and he was clumsily bundled to the ground by Sinclair.
Henry duly stepped up to convert the penalty with a minimum of fuss as Walker dived the wrong way. And it was entirely fitting that their second goal should come from a moment of pure inspiration from the peerless Bergkamp.
The Dutchman bided his time before picking out the surging run of Vieira with an exquisite through-ball.
Vieira's first touch took the ball past Walker and his second guided the ball into the empty net as Arsenal moved within sight of an unbeaten league season.
Martin Keown, making his final appearance for the club, came on to rapturous applause to qualify for his Premiership winner's medal three minutes before the end and the Premiership trophy soon followed to an even bigger reception.