Seventh heaven for Gunners
By Mark Kendall. Last Updated: May 11, 2005 10:00pm
Arsenal cruised to their biggest-ever Premiership victory by demolishing Everton 7-0 at Highbury on Wednesday night.
The North Londoners were simply outstanding and showed that their season is still far from fizzling out with a display that sends a clear message to Manchester United ahead of the FA Cup final later this month.
Dennis Bergkamp was the architect of a memorable victory although few Arsenal players even came close to putting a foot wrong on a night when Everton were simply outclassed and undoubtedly out-passed.
Six names found their way on to the Arsenal scoresheet - Robert Pires (2), Robin van Persie, Patrick Vieira, Edu, Bergkamp and Matthieu Flamini, but probably as enjoyable for the home fans was the sight of Thierry Henry back in action as he came on to provide a fine cameo in the second period.
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Beattie himself was almost presented with a sight of goal just five minutes later when a Philippe Senderos got a simple sideways pass to Sol Campbell all wrong, but Campbell slid in to snuff out any danger.
But that was as good as things got for Everton as Arsenal effortlessly clicked into gear and cruised out of sight.
They hit the front on eight minutes when the majestic Bergkamp begun his fine night's work by sliding a perfectly-weighted ball between Joseph Yobo and David Weir for van Persie to stroke past Richard Wright with the minimum of fuss.
One became two just three minutes later and once again the goal owed much to the vision of Bergkamp.
The Dutchman - who seemed to be playing with a point to prove with his Highbury future still up in the air - released Reyes down the left with a wonderful ball from inside his own half. The Spaniard's pull-back ran for Pires on the edge of the box and, although the Frenchman saw his left-footed drive well saved by Wright, he nonchalantly nodded the rebound into the unguarded net with a sublime header from 12 yards for his 16th of season.
From that moment on the visitors were chasing shadows all over the pitch as Arsenal popped the ball around with the poise and confidence that has become their hallmark under Arsene Wenger.
One sweeping move shortly before the half-mark saw The Gunners spring the length of the pitch in just three passes from Lauren, Bergkamp and Vieira before van Persie was denied by Wright.
On 30 minutes Jose Antonio Reyes cut in from right and laid off to Edu whose clever dummy created a shooting chance for Vieira, but the Arsenal's skipper's scorching effort from 25 yards faded just wide of Wright's left-hand post.
A deserved third did arrive eight minutes before the break and inevitably Bergkamp was again to the fore. He swapped passes with van Persie before poking through for the onrushing Vieira who delightfully dinked home over Wright.
There was still time before the break for Wright to make a fine double save as he parried away a van Persie free-kick from range and then beat away a stinging Reyes drive.
Things got no better for Everton's travelling fans as Arsenal lined up for the second half with Henry leading their attack and the mercurial Frenchman should have been awarded a penalty just three minutes into the second period when he appeared to be brought down by Yobo - his protests were ignored by referee Alan Wiley.
It hardly mattered, though, as number four arrived two minutes later when Pires took advantage of a fortunate deflection off Carsley to slot past Wright from 12 yards.
There was no escape for Everton who were struggling to get a touch never mind launch an attack, and the celebratory mood around Highbury was heightened when Edu was given the chance to mark what seems certain to be his last appearance in North London with a goal from the penalty spot.
Carsley was somewhat harshly adjudged to have handled Henry's cross from close range, but the Brazilian took full advantage to squeeze home the resulting spot-kick low to Wright's left - although the former Gunners custodian did get a touch.
Fittingly Bergkamp capped his individual display with a goal the crowd craved on 77 minutes. After blocking down an attempted clearance from Weir, the 36-year-old showed typical composure to control the dropping ball and force past Wright with his left-foot.
Still they weren't done and Henry served notice that he should be reaching something approaching his best for the FA Cup final by laying on the seventh.
The hit-man teased Tony Hibbert first one way and then the other before standing up a cross to the far post that Reyes knocked back expertly for substitute Flamini to volley home his first goal for the club.
It was in truth an awesome display and one that will give Arsenal fans increased belief that their season will end with silverware in Cardiff in ten days' time.
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