Gunners sink at The Riverside
Boro cruise to comfortable victory
By Peter Fraser. Last Updated: 11/12/07 6:50pm
Tuncay: Match winner
Arsenal's unbeaten run came crashing to an end as they were comfortably beaten 2-1 by Middlesbrough at The Riverside.
The Gunners slumped to their first domestic defeat of the season as an early Stewart Downing penalty and a second half Tuncay Sanli strike steered Boro out of the relegation zone.
Boro took the lead on four minutes when Jeremie Aliadiere, who left Arsenal in the summer, showed excellent pace to earn a penalty following a clumsy challenge from Kolo Toure.
Stewart Downing promptly converted from 12 yards and Boro, who were driven by the excellent Aliadiere and George Boateng, went on to dominate the opening 45 minutes as Arsenal struggled to find their trademark attacking craft and creativity.
The game continued in a similar style after the break and Tuncay then made sure of the points for Boro on 73 minutes when he pounced to fire past Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.
Tomas Rosicky netted an injury time consolation for Arsenal when he prodded home from close range, but it was far too little far too late.
The Boro game looked a formality on paper for Arsenal, against a side they had beaten nine times in the last 12 meetings, losing only once.
However, Gareth Southgate's men began determined to emulate the high-intensity game that saw North-East neighbours Newcastle snatch a draw against the same opponents in midweek.
It paid off as early as the third minute when the recalled Gary O'Neil's ball sent Aliadiere into the area and Toure clumsily brought down his former team-mate, who was going away from goal.
Referee Howard Webb rightly pointed to the spot and Downing applied just enough pace on his penalty to beat Almunia low to his left.
Arsenal were rattled but could have levelled when top scorer Emmanuel Adebayor was just beaten to Bacary Sagna's cross by the fist of rookie goalkeeper Ross Turnbull, who continued to deputise for the injured Mark Schwarzer.
Boro could have had a freakish second when William Gallas' attempted clearance cannoned off Aliadiere but straight to Almunia, while Arsenal took until the 22nd minute to have a serious shot at goal, Rosicky scuffing wide from 18 yards.
Toure saw a free-kick blocked as he tried to make amends for the penalty, before Fabio Rochemback - who was popping up all over the place - volleyed over at the other end.
Adebayor then headed a flighted Emmanuel Eboue free-kick inches wide, which Turnbull seemed to have covered.
Boro, whose intensity had dipped a little, found a second wind to finish the half ahead.
Arsenal had scored in every Premier League game this season, so it was not quite panic stations from the manager at half-time.
But it might have been five minutes after the restart when Rochemback capped a thrilling run with the perfect through ball to Tuncay.
With only Almunia to beat, the Turk's cross-shot screwed agonisingly wide of the far post.
Gael Clichy was booked for a late tackle on O'Neil before David Wheater saw a vicious goal-bound volley blocked.
Indeed, Boro were even beginning to out-pass Arsenal, the move of the match seeing Tuncay release Downing.
His cross was met first time by Boateng 20 yards out but the captain's well-struck finish was just wide.
With the visitors committing more men forward, Nicklas Bendtner mishit one over the bar and Adebayor got in behind only to see his cutback intercepted.
The danger for Arsenal was leaving themselves exposed at the back and almost as soon as Robert Huth was brought on for Jonathan Woodgate 17 minutes from time, Boro scored again.
A corner was not cleared properly and O'Neil's first-time shot was too hot for Almunia, whose parry was powered into the roof of the net by Tuncay, via a slight nick off Gallas.
Boro had the points in the bag long before Rosicky turned in Clichy's cross deep into stoppage-time.
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||2|
|7||Shots off Target||4|
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