Results: Arsenal 4-1 Bolton Wanderers, Barnsley 0-3 Aston Villa, Coventry City 1-0 Southampton, Crystal Palace 0-3 Chelsea, Derby County 3-1 Everton, Leicester City 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool FC 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester United 2-1 West Ham United, Newcastle United 1-3 Wimbledon, Blackburn Rovers 3-4 Leeds United
Going into the second month of action in the 1997-1998 season, it was Blackburn Rovers who were setting the early pace. New manager Roy Hodgson had made an immediate impact on his new side and they were scoring plenty of goals, finding the net 15 times in five matches. Blackburn were looking to keep their advantage at the top of the table and respond to Saturday’s action when they met Leeds United in the live televised Sky match.
Before they got the opportunity to play, history was being made at Highbury. Against Bolton Wanderers, Ian Wright finally managed to eclipse Cliff Bastin and become Arsenal’s record all-time goalscorer. Wright’s first goal saw him equal Bastin’s mark of 177 goals but in the excitement of scoring the equaliser, he took his top off and revealed a vest he was wearing ‘178 – Just Done It!’ He was slightly too keen but five minutes later, a more routine tap-in was the goal that saw him break the record. To cap his amazing day, he completed his hat-trick with nine minutes left, taking his tally to six goals in six games. Arsenal won the game 4-1 and remained unbeaten, playing some cavalier football under Arsene Wenger which was a welcome sight for the fans who had got used to tight, cagey games in the George Graham era.
Manchester United hadn’t quite reached full throttle yet but they were getting the results and that meant the reigning champions went top after beating West Ham United 2-1 at Old Trafford. After five consecutive clean sheets, the Red Devils defence finally conceded after 14 minutes thanks to John Hartson. Recently-appointed captain, Roy Keane quickly levelled the scores before Paul Scholes scored the winning goal with 14 minutes left to play.
They would stay top of the table as Blackburn were beaten for the first time in the season after an absorbing first half against Leeds, who went into the match on a run of three successive defeats and just outside the bottom three. Leeds made a great start, taking a 2-0 lead inside six minutes through Rod Wallace and Robert Molenaar. Within 16 minutes, Blackburn were level, thanks to a scorching strike from Kevin Gallacher and a Chris Sutton penalty. Attack seemed to be the best form of defence for both teams and the visitors stormed back into a two-goal lead. Wallace scored his second of the afternoon before David Hopkin finished off another sweeping counter-attack. On 33 minutes, Martin Dahlin got the better of Molenaar and beat Nigel Martyn with a shot that went in off the post. Naturally, the second half didn’t quite have the frantic approach of the first 45 minutes although Leeds finished with 10 men after Harry Kewell was sent off. Nevertheless, they held on for all three points and left Blackburn three points behind Manchester United.
Elsewhere and Newcastle United’s 100% start to the season was ended by a Wimbledon side who had started the weekend bottom of the Premier League. The Dons left Tyneside with all three points after an excellent all-round team performance, triumphing 3-1 with goals from Carl Cort, Chris Perry and Efan Ekoku. Southampton replaced them at the foot of the table after losing 1-0 away at Coventry City. Chelsea moved into third position with a fourth successive victory after cruising to a 3-0 success at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace. Graeme Le Saux wrapped the scoring up in the 90th minute with his first goal in his second spell with the Blues.
What else happened in September 1997?
- Over two billion people worldwide watch the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales which takes place at Westminster Abbey.
- September sees the death of Mother Teresa, aged 87.
- Both Scotland and Wales voted in favour of a devolved Parliament, meaning the formation of the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament.
- The IOC selects Athens as the host city of the 2004 Summer Olympics.
- The National Geographic Channel is launched.
- The Italian regions of Umbria and Marche are struck by an earthquake, causing part of the Basilica of St. Francis at Assisi to collapse.
- The football teams in Scotland’s top-flight, including Rangers and Celtic, decide to split from the SFL and form the Scottish Premier League from next season.