Gunners ease past poor Pompey
By Mark Kendall
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Arsenal made it six points from six after crushing Portsmouth 4-0 at Highbury.Arsenal made it six points from six over the festive period after cruising to a comfortable 4-0 victory over Portsmouth at Highbury.
The Gunners looked back to something like their best but were aided by a woefully inept performance from Pompey who were never in the game after conceding two goals inside the first 15 minutes.
It was Dennis Bergkamp and Jose Antonio Reyes who did the early damage and Thierry Henry added a brace of his own to kill the game and complete the scoring before the break.
Arsenal looked in the mood right from the first whistle and had just to wait until the seventh minute to open the scoring.
Mathieu Flamini beat Aliou Cisse, perhaps understandably a little sluggish after being thrown back into the action after a lengthy lay-off, to Richard Hughes' slack pass, allowing the Frenchman to launch a trademark Arsenal counter. Flamini released Reyes who skinned Andy Griffin before delivering the perfect low centre for Bergkamp to slot home for his first league goal of the campaign and the 200th league strike of his career.
Six minutes later the lead was doubled as Pompey's fragile-looking backline was breached again. A simple long ball over the top from Kolo Toure set Henry on his way and the mercurial striker lost Andy O'Brien with a sharp turn in the box before laying the ball on a plate for Reyes who slotted high past Ashdown first-time.
The Gunners, looking a lot more like the slick, fluid outfit of the past few seasons, were threatening to completely overrun their disjointed opponents who appeared troubled by every home attack.
Robert Pires was in particularly eye-catching form, perhaps mindful of the contract talks to decide his Highbury future scheduled for next week.
A third, which looked possible at any time, eventually arrived on 37 minutes with Henry ending his own mini goal-drought.
Flamini once again cut the centre of Pompey's defence asunder with one simple, precise ball and Henry, gliding in behind the statuesque Brian Priske, rounded Ashdown before slotting home from an acute angle with his left for a first goal in five games.
With Tresor Lomana Lua Lua ploughing a loan furrow up front, the visitors offered virtually nothing as an attacking force and went in four down at the interval as they were yet again caught square at the back.
This time it was Henry releasing Pires who advanced into box before squaring unselfishly for Reyes. As the Spaniard prepared to side-foot home he was shoved in the back by Griffin and referee Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot.
Henry, to sum up an utterly dominant Arsenal display, proceeded to dink home the resultant spot-kick with Ashdown diving the wrong way.
Unsurprisingly the hosts appeared to take their foot off the pedal after the break, although the introduction of a second frontman in the shape of Svetoslav Todorov seemed to give Arsene Wenger's men a little more to think about.
However, Arsenal nearly created a headache of their own shortly before the hour mark when Reyes was more than a little lucky not to see some kind of card after kicking out impetuously at John Viafara following a heavy challenge.
Lua Lua came close to reducing the arrears with a superb individual effort on the hour mark, twisting and turning on the edge of the box before unleashing a fine effort that looped over Lehmann and cannoned off bar.
Arsenal responded instantly with Pires capitalising on a Vignal mistake to square for Bergkamp who was denied by an effective if unconvincing Ashdown save.
In truth the game then drifted into something of a training exercise with Arsenal hardly breaking sweat in the latter stages and Pompey seemingly happy to limit the damage to just four.
But while the North Londoners walked off satisfied at the end having won at a canter, Pompey boss Harry Redknapp will know he has much wheeling and dealing to do in January if he is to galvanise what looks a demoralised squad into one capable of fending off the drop.
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