Sunderland 0 Arsenal 4: A win to finish things off

Last updated : 11 May 2003 By Footymad Previewer

Arsenal warmed up for next weekend's FA Cup Final with a comprehensive victory over a hapless Sunderland condemned to the Nationwide League on the back of 15 successive defeats.

Thierry Henry opened the floodgates in the seventh minute with his 32nd goal of the season and Freddie Ljungberg weighed in with a hat-trick to heap more misery on Black Cats manager Mick McCarthy whose first nine matches in charge have failed to yield a point.

The new manager is faced with the prospect of mounting a promotion challenge next season without his best players, including goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, who performed heroics in attempting to stem the tide.

Henry was simply awesome as he toyed with the Sunderland defence and but for the Danish international would surely have pipped Manchester United's Ruud van Nistelrooy for the Golden Boot.

Henry took just seven minutes to make his mark. Dennis Bergkamp took full advantage of a Sean Thornton mistake to release Henry who made no mistake.

Henry returned the compliment four minutes later but Sorensen denied Bergkamp with the first of many superb saves.

Sunderland took half an hour to muster their goal attempt, Gavin McCann's fierce drive flashing inches past the post.

But normal service was quickly resumed with Sorensen saving brilliantly from Henry before he headed down a Bergkamp cross for Ljungberg to increase the lead in the 39th minute.

Kevin Kyle missed a great chance early in the second half to haul the home side back into the game and Kevin Phillips curled a free-kick just wide, but back came the Gunners with Robert Pires and Henry denied by Sorensen.

Sunderland were in no position to gift the ball away in dangerous areas and after Jody Craddock had erred with his clearance, Henry set up Ljungberg for the third goal in the 77th minute.

Ljungberg completed the rout and his personal tally ten minutes later as he waltzed through a disorganised defence.

"We have set the standards for next season with our last two performances," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger referring to the disappointment of Manchester United winning the championship.

"We have scored 85 goals and that's a great record considering the modern game. The players have responded well not to winning the league and we have shown we give value for money."McCarthy said relegation was inevitable before he even took the job but could never have envisaged being pointless from his nine games in charge.

"We would have had to get 25 points from those nine games and while that was never going to happen, I could never envisage we would not have got a point," he said"But I was embarrassed today. We were hopeless and we got what we deserved. Hopefully my ability and team will be judged next season when we start the same as everybody else and not 12 points behind."