Ljungberg gains from Henry brilliance

Sunderland 0 Arsenal 4
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The Independent Football

Arsenal warmed up gently in the Wearside sunshine for the FA Cup final with a perfunctory performance illuminated by individual moments of magnificence and brilliance.

Arsenal warmed up gently in the Wearside sunshine for the FA Cup final with a perfunctory performance illuminated by individual moments of magnificence and brilliance.

In midweek, their second string scored their first goal in the ninth minute and went on to put six past Southampton. At the Stadium of Light yesterday, the first-teamers opened the scoring in the seventh minute and should have put six past for Sunderland by half-time alone.

Thierry Henry was the architect of absolutely everything and could have won the Golden Boot in this match alone. Instead, he contemptuously squandered chances in his search for perfection. When he came close to it, he discovered Thomas Sorensen – who may begin next season in the Arsenal goal – in fine, bankable form.

Having opened the scoring himself, Henry created the following three for Fredrik Ljungberg and so in the scoring stakes, as in the title race, he ended runner up to Manchester United.

Such things appear not to matter to him because Henry was contemptuous of almost everything: contemptuous of his team-mates' energy and the rules of the game – arrogantly ambling in a glaring off-side position as his colleagues sprinted the ball forward – and contemptuous of his opponents. Whenever he chose, he arrogantly arrowed through them as if they did not exist. The 18-year-old substitute Richie Ryan will not forget how a swerve of French hips left him on the floor; Kevin Kilbane will hope the 40,188 present forget how embarrassingly easily Henry magically made a high ball disappear in front of his eyes.

"The biggest sign of a great player is not his goal scoring but in providing goals," said the Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, who was concerned by knocks picked up by Ray Parlour and Oleg Luzhny. "I think the biggest reward is the player of the year and that is much more than the Golden Boot.''

Henry's goal was created by Sean Thornton's inexplicable pass to Dennis Bergkamp who slipped in the Frenchman. The angle dictated it would have been easiest to score to Sorensen's right, so Henry scooped it high to his left.

Henry created Ljungberg's first by mugging Sean Thornton on the half-way line. Bergkamp drifted a delightful cross back onto Henry's head and his touch found Ljungberg clear in front of goal.

Ljungberg's second in the 78th minute came courtesy of Henry's delicate pass between two Sunderland defenders, but at least for his hat-trick Ljungberg had to tip-toe around a couple of challenges once he had collected the ball from Henry.

"It was embarrassing," said the Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy. "Whoever turns up and walks through the door on July 2 [for pre-season training] I hope never to see anything like I have just witnessed."

Sunderland slump into the Nationwide League as the worst team ever in the Premiership: the lowest points, the lowest scorers and the longest run of consecutive defeats – now 15.

Aside from Sorensen, their greatest saleable asset is Kevin Phillips and how they squandered his skills yesterday. SuperKev's long and fond farewell on the final whistle suggested that he will be walking through a different door next season.

Goals: Henry (7) 1-0; Ljungberg (39) 2-0; Ljungberg (78) 3-0; Ljungberg (88) 4-0.

Sunderland (4-4-2) Sorensen 8; Williams 7 (McCartney 6, 44), Craddock 7, Bjorklund 6, Gray 4; Black 4 (Oster 7, h-t), McCann 5, Thornton 6 (Ryan 7, h-t), Kilbane 5; Kyle 6, Phillips 5. Substitutes not used: Poom (gk), Proctor.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman 7; Touré 5, Luzhny 4, Stepanovs 4, Cole 6; Ljungberg 8, Parlour 7 (Van Bronckhorst 6, h-t), Gilberto Silva 5, Pires 7 (Pennant 8, 64); Bergkamp 7 (Kanu 5, 75), Henry 9. Substitutes not used: Warmuz (gk), Garry.

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset) 8.

Booking: Sunderland: McCann.

Man of the match: Henry.

Attendance: 40,188.

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