Arsenal humble hapless Boro
By Patrick Goss
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
A tepid Boro side were truly hopeless in a 22-minute spell from the first whistle that saw The Gunners open up an unassailable 3-0 lead with some breathtaking football, that Mendieta could only watch after failing to receive international clearance to play in time.
The writing had been on the wall as early as the fifth minute when Thierry Henry opening the scoring, tucking home after Freddie Ljungberg's shot had been parried following a fine through-ball from Patrick Vieira.
Just eight minutes later it was 2-0, when a sparkling move saw Robert Pires play a superb cross to pick out Gilberto, who lashed home an unstoppable volley for his first Premiership goal.
Middlesbrough regrouped, but just as they gathered some momentum going forward were caught by a sucker-punch when a lightning break saw Henry canter through and lay the perfect ball between two defenders for Sylvain Wiltord to steer cleverly home first time.
Henry could have made it four swiftly after, when he raced through a punch-drunk Boro defence but delayed his shot interminably and let the chance go begging.
The France international then saw a looping header drift narrowly over, and a driven effort beat goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer but also the post, whilst Boro were restricted to a half chance for Juninho.
Inevitably Arsenal took their foot off the gas in the second half, but not before adding an imperious fourth, when Ljungberg raced through onto Sol Campbell`s superb pass and cut back unselfishly for Wiltord to lash home.
Juninho did get the disgruntled Boro fans to their feet in the 73rd minute with a superb run across the box and curling effort, but Jens Lehmann was acrobatically equal to the effort, as the match became more of a training session than a competition.
Click on the link below for a match summary:
Middlesbrough v Arsenal