Football: Six-shooting Gunners hit the top

FA Premiership: Kanu and Anelka irrepressible as goal spree threatens United's goal difference

Middlesbrough 1 Arsenal 6

Armstrong 87 Overmars pen 4, Anelka 38, 78

Kanu 45, 60, Vieira 58,

Half-time: 0-3 Attendance: 34, 630

IT WAS Bryan Robson who lifted the first trophy of Alex Ferguson's sparklingly successful career at Old Trafford. Since the marvellous captain reached the top of Wembley's 39 steps at the end of the 1990 FA Cup final replay, Manchester United have been running out of Brasso to keep their Aladdin's cave of silverware spick and span. Yesterday, though, Robson was unable to nudge a 10th major prize towards the grasp of his old boss. Instead, in falling to Arsenal's goalscoring power at the Riverside, Robson's Middlesbrough cost Ferguson's Manchester United pole position in the Premiership.

It may be only a temporary displacement, though the former leaders will need all their red devilment this morning to emerge victorious from their trip across the M62 to Elland Road.

They will still have another game in hand but defeat at Leeds would leave them with two points to make up on Arsenal, whose fiercesome fire power has suddenly brought the target of a second successive championship sharply into focus. With six goals yesterday, taking their total for the week to 11, they would have wiped out Manchester United's scoring advantage - a decisive 10 a week ago - had Alun Armstrong not risen from the substitute's bench to head what could hardly be described as a late consolation.

Leading 3-0 at the break, thanks to Marc Overmars with a penalty, Nicolas Anelka and Nwankwo Kanu, it was shooting practice for the Gunners in the second half. It was small mercy for Middlesbrough that the damage was restricted to just three more goals, plundered by Kanu, Anelka and Patrick Vieira. It was a mercy, too, for Manchester United, whose treble chance is in danger of being narrowed to a Cup double.

"We did what we had to do today," Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said. "If we had lost and Manchester United had won tomorrow it would have, basically, been all over. This keeps it interesting. We are in it but, of course, Manchester United still have it in their hands. The only thing we can do is to keep the pressure on them and keep trying to win. I only wish our next game was tomorrow."

Robson was simply relieved that it was all over. After a run of seven unbeaten matches, his Boro boys suffered the club's heaviest home defeat ever. "It was the best performance against us since I came here," the Middlesbrough manager of five years said. "This Arsenal team has got to be up there with the Liverpool of the 1970s and with the Manchester United sides of recent years."

Dennis Bergkamp's absence from the Arsenal line-up may have offered some encouragement to Middlesbrough before kick-off, but not for very long. With barely three minutes on the clock Boro were playing catch up, courtesy of Vieira's poise, Anelka's pace and Overmars' penalty taking. It was a goal fashioned with a couple of Vieira flicks, the first lifting the ball nonchalantly over Neil Maddison and the second sweeping the ball towards Anelka on the left side of the Middlesbrough box. Bergkamp's replacement was so quick, he was in possession and rounding Steve Vickers before the defender could make his challenge for the ball. The Middlesbrough player caught Anelka's legs instead and Overmars blasted the penalty past Mark Schwarzer.

Thereafter, Schwarzer's colleagues were chasing shadows as the Arsenal midfield struck the ball imperiously about the pitch. Not that the artisan hosts were summarily brushed aside. Middlesbrough, huffed, puffed and built up an attacking head of steam that had David Seaman saving impressively from Hamilton Ricard, Brian Deane (twice) and Dean Gordon. Robbie Mustoe also missed a clear chance before half-time. By then, however, Boro were buried.

First, in the 38th minute, Gordon was caught in possession in the centre circle by Vieira, who strode forward, put Anelka clear and watched his fellow Frenchman wrong foot Schwarzer as he shimmied and buried a low shot. Then, two minutes into injury time, Anelka angled a ball into the box and Kanu, after side- stepping the hapless Gordon, had time to pick the spot into which he dispatched a low shot.

After that, for the second time in five days, following their 5-1 victory against Wimbledon on Monday, a nominal contest gave way to little more than an exercise for Arsenal. Their fourth goal, in the 58th minute, was one of stunning simplicity, Vieira feeding the ball out to Anelka on the right and then ghosting into the goalmouth to finish with a tap-in after Overmars directed the return ball, first time, into his path. Two minutes later it was 5-0, Lee Dixon crossing low from the right and Kanu producing the party-piece of the game, outrageously back-heeling past Schwarzer.

It was a wonder that he was beaten only once more, by an Anelka drive from the edge of the area in the 77th minute. It was a wonder, too, that Boro had the final word, Armstrong heading past Seaman with three minutes of the non-contest remaining. "Boring, Boring, Arsenal," the travelling Gooners chorused. Boring upwards towards another title, perhaps?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Getty
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

MIDDLE EAST CURRENT AFFAIRS OFFICER

£27,000-£34,000 per annum: US Embassy: An office of the US Embassy based in Be...

BALTIC CURRENT AFFAIRS OFFICER

£27,000-£34,000 per annum: US Embassy: An office of the US Embassy London base...

IT Systems Administrator

£25000 - £35000 per annum + bonus + bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: IT Sy...

Bid Manager, London

£45000 - £60000 per annum: Charter Selection: Charter Selection are working wi...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor