Boro stun Gunners
By Mark Buckingham. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Middlesbrough ended their home hoodoo against Arsenal after hanging on for a 2-1 victory at The Riverside Stadium.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni's first goal for the club gave Boro a half time lead before Massimo Maccarone boosted the advantage just before the hour.
The impressive Jose Antonio Reyes grabbed a consolation in the third minute of injury time but it was little more than The Gunners ultimately deserved.
Boro were firmly on the back foot for the opening 10 minutes as Reyes tormented the home defence.
The young Spaniard had a chance after just 25 seconds when he blocked Ugo Ehiogu's attempted pass out of defence, only to shoot straight at Mark Schwarzer.
A cleverly worked moved on four minutes almost brought Arsenal the opener. Alexander Hleb pulled the ball back for Reyes, who shimmied in the area before hitting the post with his shot.
Reyes was at the heart of The Gunners' most probing work and he slipped a pass through to Robert Pires, only for the Frenchman to be denied after Boro captain Gareth Southgate came charging to the rescue.
Boro's frustration at watching the game pass them by boiled over, with George Boateng and Franck Queudrue booked but, for all Arsenal's intricate approach play, they lacked a killer instinct in the absence of skipper Thierry Henry.
Reyes made a mug of Abel Xavier on his debut but Dennis Bergkamp's wild shot did not do his team-mate's trickery justice and a lively break from the ex-Sevilla starlet later resulted in Schwarzer smothering another shot.
But remarkably Arsenal went in at half time behind after Boro scored courtesy of their only chance of the first half on 42 minutes. Boateng fed Yakubu and, after the ball bobbled kindly, the striker caressed his shot delightfully into the corner beyond a helpless Jens Lehmann.
The pattern of play after the interval followed the first half, as Arsenal continued to jab at the Boro defence, without coming up with a knockout blow.
Ashley Cole was thwarted by more robust defending, after another slick move from the visitors, but Arsenal almost succumbed to a second sucker punch on 53 minutes.
Massimo Maccarone made a nuisance of himself in the box and, when the ball broke to Yakubu, Lehmann had to make a fine, sprawling save to deny the goalscorer a second.
There was little Lehmann could do about Boro's second, which eventually arrived just before the hour mark. Schwarzer's long punt down the pitch, after Hleb had pleaded for a soft penalty, was only partially cleared by Pascal Cygan.
Yakubu picked up on the loose ball and, under pressure from Gilberto Silva, fed a pass into Maccarone and the Italian showed cool composure to net his first goal for Boro since the last day of the 2003/04 season.
Arsenal offered nothing in response to going two goals down, with Cygan's stay in the starting line-up likely to be short-lived judged on this display.
The performance also throws up more conundrums for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, with the FA Cup winners seemingly unable to replace departed captain Patrick Vieira or the injured Henry, with players of similar influence and standing.
There was a brief resurgence in the final minute from Arsenal as Reyes, the only Gunner to truly emerge with any credit from the game, saw his shot across the face of goal turned behind by Schwarzer.
Reyes then scampered clear at the death to round Schwarzer and slip the ball into the net but time was against Arsenal.
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|4||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||4|
|1||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||5|
|17||Total Fouls Conceded||17|
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