Post-Match Report

Arsenal 7-0 Middlesbrough: Match Report

05/06 Arsenal 7-0 Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough FC -

Barclays Premier League
Barclays Premier League
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  Middlesbrough FC
Middlesbrough FC

Just seven days after indicating he would extend his medal-winning, record-breaking stay at Highbury, Thierry Henry once again proved his importance to Arsenal Football Club.

The Frenchman grabbed his eighth hat-trick of his career with the London club. In doing so he equalled Cliff Bastin's record of 150 League goals. He is now within three strikes of becoming Arsenal's first double centurion. 

As ever Henry's goals took the eye in an utterly dominant victory over a seemingly dispirited Middlesbrough side, who had Doriva sent off midway through the second half. However Robert Pires, Philippe Senderos, Gilberto and Alexander Hleb each grabbed fine strikes themselves.

In addition, Ashley Cole played his first hour of football for three-and-a-half month and the 7-0 win equalled Arsenal's biggest victory in the Premiership.

After a busy day in the transfer market yesterday, this put a happy seal on a highly-satisfying week.

Before kick-off, the major team news concerned the defence. Wenger was without Sol Campbell (foot), Gael Clichy (foot), Kerrea Gilbert (knee) through injury. Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue were with the Ivory Coast for the African Nations Cup.

As a result, Johan Djourou stepped up for his Premiership debut after impressing during the Club's Carling Cup run. He started at centre back alongside his countryman, Senderos.

In addition, sickness prevented Dennis Bergkamp returning to the Arsenal squad. Like Robin van Persie (toe), he may return for next Saturday's visit to Everton.

Middlesbrough came into this fixture without a win in seven Premiership games. They never looked like ending that run this afternoon. Arsenal started the game with pace, purpose and vitality - then they got much, much better.

After three minutes, Gilberto's pass was inadvertently knocked into the path of Ljungberg by Stuart Parnaby and the Swede forced a save from keeper Brad Jones.

It was the start of a very, very busy afternoon for the Australian.

Almost immediately, Ljungberg tricked himself some space on the right of the area but his shot was blocked. Soon afterwards Reyes was fouled outside the area and Henry's curling free-kick nudged the post before whistling wide.

It was all-Arsenal and the opening goal, in the 20th minute, was no more than they deserved. Ljungberg reached the byline and cut the ball back for Henry who was prowling a crowded area 10 yards from goal. He met the ball with a sweet sidefoot shot which flew into the far corner.

Two minutes later the lead was doubled. Reyes floated over a corner from the right and Senderos rose unmarked at the far post to nod home his first goal at Highbury.

Middlesbrough looked short of confidence while Arsenal had their tails up. That combination made for one-way traffic. It was no surprise when the third arrived on the half-hour.

Pires fed Reyes in the centre circle and the Spaniard sent a raking pass into the path of Henry. Jones rushed out, thus giving Henry the relatively simple job of lifting the ball over the keeper and then watching on as his shot rolled just inside the far post.

This game was becoming a stroll.

The day got better 11 minutes before the break. It was very unfortunate that Pascal Cygan had to hobble off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. However the roof nearly came off Highbury when Cole came on.
The best goal of the bunch came in first-half injury time. Pires found himself on the corner of the area and the Boro defence gave him time to assess his options. He chose to go for goal and, with little backlift, curled a sumptuous chip into the far corner.
Henry missed a great chance to grab that record goal at the start of the second half. Ljungberg reached the byline and again cut the ball back for the Frenchman but he blazed over the bar.

Shortly afterwards, Pires nodded home at the near post only for the assistant referee to flag for offside. Replays suggested the decision was wrong.

No matter, the fifth arrived just before the hour in almost identical fashion. Henry sent over a free-kick and Gilberto headed in his first Premiership goal of the season.

Then came the moment.

Reyes sent Henry clear in the right hand channel and the Frenchman had another simple job of beating Jones. It was the League record for the striker and his third of the afternoon. It was also the third assist by Reyes and his eighth in the Premiership season so far.

Within minutes, Boro had insult added to injury. Doriva received his second yellow card and was sent off. Ironically they created their first real chance soon afterwards. Jens Lehmann saved from Chris Riggott's sliding shot and then Yakubu's headed follow-up.
Substitute Hleb grabbed his first goal six minutes from time to equal the 7-0 victory over Everton at the end of last season, Arsenal's biggest win in the Premiership.

Hleb and Ljungberg had chance to break that record in the dying second but were foiled in goal-mouth scrambles

Stilll, Henry had probably re-written the history books enough for one day.

Referee: Rob Styles
Attendance: 38186

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