Arsenal vs. Chelsea: When Nwankwo Kanu scored a Hattrick

Arsenal vs. Chelsea: When Nwankwo Kanu scored a Hattrick
Credit: Iconsport

In the annals of football lore, there exist tales that transcend the mere boundaries of sport, narratives woven with threads of resilience, faith, and sheer talent.

One such saga unfurls on the hallowed grounds of English football, where the clash between Arsenal and Chelsea became the stage for a miraculous display by a player whose journey epitomized the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

The year was etched in the memories of football aficionados as the day when Nwankwo Kanu, a name synonymous with both grace and perseverance, etched his mark in history. But his ascent to footballing greatness was anything but conventional.

Born in Nigeria, Kanu's odyssey began amidst the backdrop of uncertainty, his path beset by challenges that would have daunted even the most stalwart of souls.

It was during his tenure at Inter Milan that fate, in its capricious guise, delivered a staggering blow.

A routine medical examination unearthed a congenital heart defect, a diagnosis that threatened to sever the ties that bound Kanu to the game he loved with unwavering ardor.

In the face of such adversity, lesser mortals might have faltered, resigned to the cruel decree of fate. Yet, Kanu, a beacon of unwavering faith, refused to capitulate.

“I prayed to God,” he recounted, his words reverberating with a profound sense of conviction.

“If you’re the one that allowed it to happen, you know why and you’re going to bring me back to what I love doing.”

It was this unyielding faith, this unwavering belief in the transcendent power of determination, that would come to define Nwankwo Kanu's remarkable journey.

And return he did, with a resilience that defied comprehension. Transcending the realm of the improbable, Kanu embarked on a new chapter in his footballing odyssey, one that would see him don the famed red and white of Arsenal.

In the crucible of English football, Kanu found not just a team but a canvas upon which he would paint his masterpiece.

Within the storied confines of Highbury, Kanu ascended beyond the realm of mere mortals, transcending the boundaries of sport to become something more—an icon, a legend, a king.

In the hearts and minds of Arsenal supporters, he was not just a player; he was King Kanu, a moniker that encapsulated the reverence and adulation that he inspired.

And so, it was amidst this backdrop of triumph and adversity, of faith and fortitude, that the stage was set for a showdown of epic proportions—Arsenal versus Chelsea. Y

et, amidst the cacophony of cheers and chants, amidst the ebb and flow of the beautiful game, one man would emerge as the protagonist of this tale.

 Nwankwo Kanu's hat-trick: A legendary triumph for Arsenal against Chelsea

CAF Awards winners - Which Super Eagles have won the award?
Credit: Icon Sport

Nwankwo Kanu, a towering presence on the footballing stage, had already endeared himself to the faithful of Arsenal during his five-and-a-half-season tenure at the club.

Signed for a modest sum of around £4.15 million in February 1999, the Nigerian striker wasted little time in making his mark, finishing his debut season with a flourish, notching seven goals in 17 appearances—a precursor to the brilliance that would unfold in the years to come.

Yet, it was a crisp October afternoon in 1999 that would come to define Kanu's legacy at Arsenal—a match against their bitter London rivals, Chelsea, that would test the resolve of even the most seasoned of footballing titans.

Chelsea, buoyed by the prowess of Tore Andre Flo and Dan Petrescu, appeared to have sealed their fate with two well-taken headers, leaving Arsenal staring down the barrel of defeat.

But football, as it so often does, has a penchant for the dramatic, for the unexpected. And in the 75th minute of the match, with Arsenal trailing 2-0, Nwankwo Kanu embarked on a journey that would defy logic and leave spectators spellbound.

Intercepting a Marc Overmars shot with a deft touch, Nwankwo Kanu unleashed a precise toe-poke that nestled into the bottom corner of the net—a glimmer of hope amidst the encroaching shadows of despair.

Yet, Kanu was far from finished. Seven minutes later, with the clock ticking inexorably towards full-time, he once again found himself at the heart of the action, latching onto an Overmars cross with aplomb, deftly controlling the ball before unleashing a thunderous strike past the beleaguered Ed De Goey, reducing the deficit to a solitary goal.

But it was the final act of this mesmerizing spectacle that would etch itself into the annals of footballing history—a moment of individual brilliance, of audacity bordering on the surreal.

With mere minutes remaining on the clock, Kanu embarked on a solo run that defied belief, weaving his way past Chelsea defenders with the grace of a dancer and the determination of a warrior.

As De Goey, the Chelsea goalkeeper, inexplicably raced off his line in a desperate attempt to thwart the Arsenal onslaught, Nwankwo Kanu seized the opportunity with steely resolve, rounding the hapless goalkeeper before unleashing an audacious strike that sailed majestically into the top corner of the net—a crescendo of skill, determination, and sheer audacity.

As the final whistle blew and the echoes of victory reverberated throughout Stamford Bridge, Nwankwo Kanu stood as a testament to the indomitable human spirit, to the capacity for greatness that resides within each and every one of us.

His hat-trick, a masterpiece of skill and determination, not only secured a remarkable 3-2 victory for Arsenal but served as a reminder of the enduring legacy of one of football's true titans.

In the aftermath of this unforgettable performance, accolades poured in for Nwankwo Kanu, with the Nigerian striker being named African Footballer of the Year for the second time in 1999—a fitting tribute to a player whose brilliance transcended borders and captivated the imaginations of football fans the world over.

“One of the best in the world” – Nwankwo Kanu

Kanu Nwankwo with Arsenal in the Premier League
Credit: Icon Sport

Looking back on that unforgettable hat-trick against Chelsea, Nwankwo Kanu can't help but feel a sense of pride and gratitude.

“It was one of the best moments in the world!” he says, his eyes lighting up with the memory.

For Kanu, that game wasn't just about football; it was about overcoming challenges and proving what he was capable of.

It's a reminder that with hard work and belief, anything is possible. Looking back, he feels grateful for the opportunity to have made such a memorable impact on the game he loves.

This article was most recently revised and updated 3 weeks ago

Rababe Koussaimi, a 22-year-old journalist, is deeply passionate about the world of sports. She grew up in a footballing environment, supporting both Bayern Munich and Wydad Athletic Club. She began her English journalism career by hosting a podcast for the first English radio station in Morocco. Currently, the Moroccan journalist channels her enthusiasm into writing and conducting extensive research, creating insightful and engaging content for GoalBall Live readers.