Yakubu Aiyegbeni says it himself – he loves scoring against Arsenal. The former Super Eagles frontman has found the target five times against the Gunners during his long career in England.
But strangely it’s not one of those goals he is remembered for in the pubs and clubs around north London – it’s a chance that went begging.
It came towards the end of the 2003/04 season when Yakubu was starring for Portsmouth.
The Gunners, who had just been crowned Premier League champions, arrived at Fratton Park with their sights set firmly on history.
Arsene Wenger’s side had just three games to navigate to become the first club in the modern era to go through an entire league season unbeaten.
And they managed it – but not before they were giving an almighty fright by Yakubu.
The prolific frontman fired Pompey in front after 29 minutes before Jose Antonio Reyes levelled four minutes after the interval.
But the key moment arrived 13 minutes from time when Lomana LuaLua’s flick on sent Yakubu racing clear.
He had Arsenal’s unbeaten season in the grasp of his hands, but he shot straight at Jens Lehmann who gleefully made the save.
“I remember that chance,” said the 32-year-old, who is preparing to face the Gunners for Reading tomorrow in an FA Cup semi-final .
“Arsenal were an unbelievable team, they had Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Freddie Ljungberg.
“But we pushed them to the end. We were very close to beating them. It was 1-1 when I went through but Lehmann saved it.
“Patrick Vieria came over to me and said, come on Yak, you don’t need to score today – we want to keep our run going. I said I know, but I’m just doing my job.”
Yakubu added: “As a player sometimes you want to be the person who breaks a record. You want to be the person who does it.
“And we were so close that year to beating them.
“But they were a good team. One of the best ever. They all played together and had lots of experience.”
Arsenal are now a very different animal to the one which lined up against Portsmouth that night in May, 2004.
The likes of Henry, Vieria and Ljungberg are long gone, but the new look Gunners are on a run of form the Invincibles of 2004 would have been proud of .
They head to Wembley tomorrow on the back of eight successive league wins. Since losing to Southampton on New Year’s Day, the Gunners have won 16 of their 18 games in all competitions.
It’s a remarkable run of form, one that will strike fear into even the most optimistic of Reading fan. But Yakubu is convinced Royals can still pull off a shock on Saturday.
“For sure we can beat them,” he said. “You can beat any team. You have to believe.
“We are playing at Wembley against one of the best teams in England. It’s great for the players, the club, for the fans and for the community. Everyone is excited.
“But we’re not just going there to play. We’re going there to give it our best to win.”
He added: “I can’t remember how many exactly, but I know I always score against Arsenal.
“They are a good team so when you play against them you have to be ready and focused.
“Any mistake they are going to punish you because they have great players. They pass the ball very well.
“So we just have to stick together, defend well and then hopefully we can surprise everyone.”
Yak’s 5 Goals Vs Arsenal
English Premier Sa 17sep 2011 Blackburn 4 – 3 Arsenal
The Yak scored his only brace against Arsenal in a 4-3 Blackburn win at Ewood Park in his last season in England before staging a return at the start of the season.
He scored on 22 (to cancel out Gervinho’s 10th minute opening goal) and 59 minutes to put Blackburn 3-2 up after Alex song’s own goal in the 50th minute had drawn the homers level after a Mikel Arteta’s 34th minute strike had put the Gunners 2-1 up. Another own goal by Laurent Koscienly extended Blackburn’s lead to two on 68 minutes.Marouane Chamakh halved the deficit in the 85th minute as the match ended 4-3.