Happy Birthday Ray Parlour: Five of his best Arsenal goals

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The Gunners legend - nicknamed the Real Romford Pele - was an unsung hero for the club and was renowned for scoring spectacular strikes.

Ray Parlour was no ordinary footballer. The man nicknamed 'The Real Romford Pele' was a scorer only of delightful goals. He simply refused to score tap-ins.

Some of his strikes will go down in folklore as some of Arsenal's best, and most thunderous.

He was part of the famed Invincibles squad in the unbeaten 2003-2004 season and was praised as much for his loyalty to the club as he was for providing a combative edge to the Gunners' silky midfield play.

The fact he was voted No.19 in a poll of the club's top 50 players only further underlines his stock amongst supporters, having become one of the most dependable members of such a successful team.

And make no mistake about it, he was integral to that success. He, quite simply, was a better player than most gave him credit for. But the fans loved it that way.

So, upon turning 41, here are just five of his best blockbuster goals in a career at Highbury which spanned 12 years.

1) Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea (Saturday 4 May 2002 - FA Cup Final)

Perhaps it his most famous strike of the lot, paving the way for the Gunners to seal the first part of their domestic double in 2002.

It had been a dour final in truth, with precious little to report between the London neighbours in only the second final to be played at Cardiff's Millenium Stadium, until Parlour took centre stage.

After good work from Tony Adams and Stlvain Wiltord, the midfielder found himself in space some 30 yards out before launching a stunning right-footed strike which seared into Carlo Cudicini's top corner.

Freddie Ljungberg threatened to go one better with an outstanding second goal but both will be remembered for years to come.

2) Arsenal 2-1 Valencia (4 April 2001 - Champions League Quarter-Final)

The Spaniards had the best defensive record in the competition heading into the first leg of their quarter-final tie at Highbury and took the lead through Roberto Ayala's close-range effort to hand his side what would ultimately prove a priceless away goal.

But Arsenal refused to let the disappointment of conceding faze them and duly responded just before the hour mark with Thierry Henry diverting home to equalise.

And Parlour had clearly not read the script beforehand as he let fly with a forceful effort which flew past a stunned Santiago Canizares to send Highbury into raptures.

3) Arsenal 4-2 Sparta Prague (25 October 2000 - Champions League Group Stage)

The Gunners cruised past their Czech opponents with ease to top their group and reach the second round of the Champions League with a comprehensive display.

Parlour's goal was the pick of the bunch, crashing home from range after picking up Patrick Vieira's pass in space and took advantage by blasting the ball into the top corner.

Goals from Lauren, Lee Dixon and Nwankwo Kanu sealed the win and a future Arsenal player in Tomas Rosicky announced himself on the big stage with a stunning late goal.

4) Arsenal 5-2 Gillingham (16 February 2002 - FA Cup Fifth Round)

The Gunners had to overcome some scares to seal their place in the quarter-finals of the cup, with the scores finely poised at 2-2 with just 23 minutes left until their class eventually told.

Wiltord and Kanu had both scored either side of a Marlon King strike before Ty Gooden levelled the scores with a sensational lob. Thierry Henry and Robert Pires were thrown on and the Gills' brave resistance broke when Adams struck, before Wiltord grabbed his second.

But the best was left until last in the shape of Parlour's stunning volley, as he connected with Juan's left-wing cross at the back post with the outside of his foot and saw the ball zip home off the underside of the crossbar.

5) Werder Bremen 2-4 Arsenal (23 March 2000 - Uefa Cup Quarter-Final)

Parlour scored a sensational hat-trick as Arsenal romped home to a comfortable 6-2 aggregate win in Germany to progress to the semi-finals of the Uefa Cup.

It was not only his first goals of the season, but it was also an inaugural hat-trick for the midfielder, who also teed up Thierry Henry for the Gunners' third goal of the game.

Henry was then harshly sent off but Parlour continued his one-man mission by scoring in injury time. His pick of the bunch, though, was his first of the evening.

Picking up Kanu's pass in a wide-right position on the edge of the area, he got the ball out of his feet before sending a swerving strike arrowing in off the inside of the far post to stun Bremen. 

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