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Friday 08 February 2013

On this day: Stephen Hughes brace keeps Arsenal in the hunt

  • Stephen Hughes's first goal against Chelsea. "I hit it quite well and it flew in."

  • Hughes heads his and Arsenal's second from a corner

Premierleague.com rifles through the annals of the Barclays Premier League and finds significant events that took place on this day.

On this day: February

8 February 1998: Stephen Hughes scored twice to steer Arsenal to a 2-0 win over Chelsea at Highbury. The result meant that Arsene Wenger’s team remained in fifth but closed the gap on Chelsea to one point, with Manchester United a further five points ahead. This match was the sixth in an 18-match unbeaten run, including a ten-match winning streak, that propelled Arsenal up the table to become champions. The brace started a good week for Hughes, 21, as he signed a new five-year deal to stay at Highbury. In 2000 he joined Everton before moving to Charlton Athletic and then Coventry City. His connection with Arsenal remains as he works for the club’s media as a pundit.

Hughes told premierleague.com about the match: "I remember it was a very physical game; it was a London derby and there was a lot at stake.

"I remember running over to Dennis Bergkamp, who in the dressing room before the game was telling everyone what a large head I had"
Stephen Hughes

"The first goal was quite early on and after Nicolas Anelka missed a chance, the ball came out to me quite quickly. I’d like to think it was 30 yards out but apparently it wasn’t! I hit it first time and it went right to left. I hit it quite well and it flew in.

"It was a good strike and I have got good memories of that. I remember running over to Dennis Bergkamp, who in the dressing room before the game was telling everyone what a large head I had. I’ve got a great photo of the celebration where I’m running over to him and he is putting his hands above his head, like my head was a caricature.

"The second one was a header from a corner. I went up for the corner as well. There were a lot of bodies around and I think it was Steve Bould who headed it back in. I was just lucky, I couldn’t miss, to be honest with you. I was only a few yards out and I just nodded it in.

"It was a very memorable day for me. I look back on it really fondly. It was great getting into that team and you look at some of those names - Nicolas Anelka, Bergkamp - they are some of the Premier League’s best players.

"It was an important win. At the end I was just physically drained. The whole thing took it out of me. Chelsea had a fantastic team as well. It was a real ding-dong London derby and we came off buzzing that we had won the game.

"I am biased and I would say that the win was an important part of us winning the title! We weren’t intimidated by anyone. We had some outstanding players. There was real belief that we were going to do something special. It was an amazing time for the football club. Going on that run and being involved was incredible for me.

"It was fantastic playing in that team. Confidence was high and we were blowing teams away before we played them. I played my part but I wasn’t a regular, I just came in and did my job when needed.

"When players get injured or suspended, you come in and you have got to try to yourself a bit of justice. It was a phenomenal squad and team and will go down in Premier League history as one of the best."

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