Middlesbrough 0 Arsenal 4: Gunners blitz Boro

Last updated : 25 August 2003 By Brian Dawes

England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson witnessed a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park for Arsenal at the Riverside.

The gulf in class between genuine Premiership title contenders and also rans Middlesbrough was evident from the start.

Arsenal oozed class in an opening spell that ripped the home side apart.

With a three-goal lead established inside 22 minutes the game was over as a contest, although the Gunners should have doubled that score before the break.

On this evidence Arsene Wenger's side could well mount a championship challenge but Boro will have to show an improvement if they are to avoid a long hard winter.

This was the sixth defeat inflicted on Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren in three seasons by the Gunners, who have now won five Premiership games and an FA Cup semi-final.

One wonders what were the thoughts of Spanish star Gaizka Mendieta as Middlesbrough's new signing watched the game from the stands as his international clearance had not arrived in time.

Arsenal opened the scoring after only five minutes through Thierry Henry. Mark Schwarzer could only parry a Freddie Ljungberg shot at full stretch and Henry had an easy job to score from close range.

Eight minutes later Gilberto Silva had the satisfaction of scoring his first Premier League goal following contributions by Ashley Cole and Robert Pires.

A further nine minutes on and Sylvain Wiltord piled on the agony when he fired home an Henry pass as the visitors again split open the home defence.

Middlesbrough's first shot on target came from Szilard Nemeth after 36 minutes.

After the most one-sided first half seen at the Riverside Stadium, Arsenal took their foot off the pedal in the second period although they remained in total control.

Wiltord scored a fourth goal from an easy chance on the hour and Middlesbrough failed to show any scoring punch.

There were not even any flashes of magic by Brazilian star Juninho to lift the home team and their fans.