Gunners inaugurate new stadium

Bid farewell to Dutch striker Bergkamp

London, July 23 :

Arsenal inaugurated its new stadium with a 2-1 win over Ajax on Saturday, and bid farewell to Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp with a testimonial match.

The friendly at Emirates Stadium at Ashburton Grove in north London marked not only the opening of the $712 million facility, but the retirement of the 37-year-old Bergkamp, who played the last 11 years for Arsenal after starting his career at the Amsterdam club.

Bergkamp lined up with fellow Arsenal greats including Ian Wright and Patrick Vieira against Ajax, which included the likes of Johann Cruyff and Marco Van Basten.

Thierry Henry and Nwankwo Kanu scored for Arsenal in front of 54,000 fans in the new building. “If ever I was going to have a testimonial it was always going to be against Ajax,” Bergkamp said. “In 11 years I have had a fantastic, successful time and a big part of that has been the fans.”

The Emirates stadium replaces Arsenal’s 93-year-old home at Highbury.

The first kick of a ball came from Bergkamp’s father Wim, who passed to his son, who then did likewise — tapping it to 7-year-old Mitchel.

In the second half, Arsenal utilised some of the most successful and popular players from Bergkamp’s time at the club. And while Bergkamp lined up with the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars, he was up against legendary Dutch players such as FC Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard, and Ronald and Frank De Boer.

Bergkamp helped Arsenal to three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and last season’s Champion League final. Bergkamp scored 120 goals for Arsenal and was voted English soccer’s player of the year in 1998. He retired from the Dutch national side after the 2000 European Championship.