Arsenal 2 Southampton 0: Arsenal's record run ends....

Last updated : 11 February 2004 By Brian Dawes

Vieira and Ormerod compete for the ball
The pressure might have been on Jose Antonio tonight but Arsenal fans are usually able to give sufficient encouragement to our youngsters. Clearly though this may have been a concern for Jose judging by his comments after the second Boro semi final match. Encouragement is clearly essential, it's something we afforded Henry while he was settling in and his current love for the club is possibly not an entirely unconnected event. Bergkamp, Kanu, Aliadiere and Wiltord were all unavailable, Dennis picked up an injury at Wolves, our Nigerian is away at the ANC, young Jeremie is injured and as for Wiltord, who really knows or cares apart from Le Boss?

Like I said, the pressure might have been on Jose, but fortunately Arsenal have a forward who can beat most teams on his own and that’s what he did again tonight. Well not entirely alone of course, we started well enough with Pires getting two shots on target, the first from a Cole cross, the second from a Vieira pass. Both were saved low. We then sustained a period of Southampton pressure where they kept us pegged back by closing down fast and winning a succession of corners during the sequence of which, Kolo cleared, Kolo blocked. Lauren headed off the line, Rob headed clear and a shot was deflected for yet another corner. Arsenal had eleven men back to defend once more, as yet another corner was flicked on at the near post. Another corner, another shot, another deflection, another Saints corner.

Ormerod, the ugliest number 36 in the division, went down like Bambi on ice without a touch. Neil Barry sneered contemptuously at him, quite rightly. As at St. Mary’s earlier this season their ploy was to win free kicks and throw-ins, and then pump them in. There were a lot of both the free kicks and throw-ins, but Kolo and Sol had huge games tonight and both passed with flying colours (red and white). A brilliant turn by Parlour set up a Henry break, Ray had a mixed game, brilliant one minute and making a poor pass the next. Cole was in attacking mode. Pat was in winning mode and had a shot deflected for a corner. At the other end Phillips put in Le Saux, who played left side midfield, but he shot wide and was jeered for his effort.

Anders Svensson went down injured when he appeared to twist his knee, he was soon replaced by number 32 who didn’t appear in the programme, so I have no idea what I’m paying £2.50 for when they can’t even complete a team sheet. Meanwhile back at the game, Henry had a good run and hit a deep cross aimed at Ray that was cleared. Ormerod was clearly offside but the lino missed it. We had a fast counter but Pires couldn’t pick out the perfect cross. Sol won a perfect tackle and Saints got a free kick, a crap decision by Neil Barry. Le Saux had a shot that Jens held.

Gilberto won fine ball in midfield and put Pires away, who hit Henry on the run with an early ball. Thierry was away to notch up his 100th. Premiership goal. Saints moaned about him being offside but I was at the wrong end to call it, it would have been a close call in any case. 1-0 Arsenal. The bald lino missed another Saints offside, lino’s are surely the only ones more confused than the TV pundits about the offside laws. A solo chant aimed at the lino of ‘Where’s your toupe gone?’ wasn’t picked up by other fans. Shame. Another spectacular dive by Ormerod was followed, it must be the Oscar season, by an even worse bit of theatrics by that little shite Le Saux. Le Saux’s dive was quite pitiful, shame that Dixon retired; he would have had the little runt. Ormerod’s next offside was also missed.

Reyes - Still finding his feet
A brilliant ball by Cole down the line to Henry was, dare I say it, wasted by the great man. Pat was late on Svensson, the other one, and got a yellow card, Ormerod was late on Henry, no card. Delap into the back of Gilberto, no card. A great run by Ashley was followed by a tame shot by Henry. Le Saux shot wide again. Phillips was pulled up for being quite obviously offside, derisive standing applause for the bald lino, so Phillips picked the ball up and kicked it away. Yellow card? Of course not. Pires set up Reyes for a shot that was low and wide. By the time we reached the break the Saints had had a lot of possession but we’d had more decent chances. Half time.

Saints kicked off towards the Clock End. Henry almost hit a great ball to Patrick who was steaming down the middle impersonating an express train at the time. 32 the mystery man picked up a mystery injury. Pat was spreading the play now and although we were pretty left sided we were looking good. Ray won a corner, which Reyes took and curled in nicely, but Sol’s downward header was wide. Henry broke but the move petered out. Jens was called upon to stand tall and make a close range save from Ormerod, I think. He punched the resulting corner away and then saved low following their next. A big hack at Pat by Ormerod, is that why wee Gordon likes him instead of Beattie?

Pires and Silva combined to play in Thierry down the left who skimmed it across the face with Jose inches away from his first goal. Ormerod had a good old hack at Kolo who took serious exception, enough for them both to get at it and receive some words of advice from Neil Barry. I would have advised Kolo to give him a good kicking but apparently we’ve not been allowed to get away with things like that since the 70’s. Ray steamed in to someone, Ormerod I hope, and after the yellow shirted impression of a jack-in-the-box type leap Ray was carded.

Head ball in our six yard box followed as the ball was pumped in and the crowd shouted ‘clear the ****ing thing?’ it was a good job the players heard them! Some good chasing by Jose gave Silva the chance to set Henry free. Kolo seriously missed his kick on a Saints counter and a yellow shirt went close, it looked like Lundekvam to me, but I wasn’t sure. Even Pires was back to head clear, a good header to clear at that. Telfer shoved Pires over with two hands and then moaned to the ref that Pires dived, what a little shite.

More fine football from Arsenal and a couple of great passing moves, the second of which saw some brilliant one-twos by Cole but Niemi was out fast. A great cross by Ray, and a few more, which were anything but. Phillips with an obvious foul on Campbell on the halfway line was clearly seen by the 38,007 punters, but not Barry. Reyes on a run but 32 hacked him down and got a yellow card, 32 the sub was soon to be replaced by number 9 Beattie, I know that because that was in the programme. Arsenal continued to look for a second goal. Clichy replaced Reyes and looked pretty lively left side midfield, Rob moved further forward.

Henry gets his second goal
Meaty tackles were still all the rage but Telfer preferred to use Vieira as a step ladder. Pahars replaced the ever popular Le Saux who was generously applauded off by the Gooners. Not. Delap slung in a series of long throws but we were up to them, thanks mainly to Sol who was brilliant in the air tonight. Jens also played his part by catching a couple of high ones when required. The best piece of football of the match came about when Henry won a clever little header that he flicked over a yellow shirt. He rounded his man, headed on the bouncing ball, flicked the ball over the next one, opened his body to clip one in at the far post but it went just wide. It would have been an absolute classic if it had gone in. Great shame it didn’t, but great to watch.

Three minutes added time and we were messing about near the corner flags, knowing how it pissed them off in Cardiff I think this was a big two-fingers aimed at the Saints. If we want to kill time we will. But wide on the right Ray set a clever ball into space down the line. Rob chased and cut it back into the path of the advancing Gilberto who messed up his shot. The ball however fell to Henry who made space to set up a shot, which he blasted into the top corner, just like he did against Man City but from much closer range. 2-0 Arsenal goodnight Saints. The yellow shirts threw their rattles out of their prams and earned two more pointless bookings for moaning. It could have been a lot more than that because they went on and on and on and on. The lino recommended Niemi’s name but there was another of Barry’s choice. I can only imagine it was because they had a player down in our half earlier, but as the Saints had the ball at the time and didn’t kick it out. Tough!

‘Say we are top of the league, Say we are top of the league’, still.