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Arsenal 5 Middlesbrough 3
After passing unbeaten through last season, Arsène Wenger described his side as “immortal”. At the time it seemed like hyperbole, but Arsenal came back from the dead on Sunday to beat Middlesbrough and equal Nottingham Forest's record of 42 English league games without defeat.
“On a day when we were poor defensively,” Wenger said, “we made up for it by being offensively remarkable.” No doubt Chelsea manager José Mourinho will be particularly offended by how remarkable Arsenal were.
For much of the first half it had seemed like just another Arsenal walkover, as Middlesbrough struggled to get out of their own half. José Antonio Reyes had already stabbed against a post when his magnificent 70-yard pass set Thierry Henry clear to open the scoring after 25 minutes.
Henry then hit the bar with a dipping free-kick, but if there was perhaps a hint of frustration that their lead was only one, there was no hint of what was to follow. Two minutes from the break, Franck Queudrue, picking up a loose ball on halfway, nutmegged Gilberto Silva, turned past Cesc Fabregas, played a one-two with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and laid in Joseph-Désiré Job to equalise.
If that seemed faintly ludicrous, by the time eight minutes of the second half had passed Highbury had apparently lost all grip on reality. Hasselbaink put Middlesbrough ahead after Pascal Cygan had missed Queudrue's through ball, and then the French full-back put Middlesbrough 3-1 up from 25 yards.
That scoreline, though, was too ridiculous to last, and within a minute Dennis Bergkamp had pulled one back with a drive from the edge of the box. Eleven minutes later Fabregas fed Henry, and his cross-shot was turned in by Robert Pires. Barely had Middlesbrough kicked off again when Reyes made it 4-3: a two-goal lead had been obliterated in 12 minutes that provided more excitement than Chelsea have in two games this season.
Henry tapped a fifth from Pires's cross in injury time, and a remarkable comeback was complete. Arsenal share the Premiership leadership with Chelsea, but they could hardly have achieved their two wins apiece in more different style.
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