Middlesbrough 1 Arsenal 1: Henry stirs to ruin Woodgate shutout

France forward breaks out of recalled England international's shackles for disputed strike
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The Independent Football

Less than 24 hours after Steve McClaren, the England manager, brought an end to Jonathan Woodgate's three-year international exile, the Middlesbrough defender came within 13 minutes of celebrating the recall by keeping Thierry Henry at bay. But, as many have found out before and many will find for years to come, there is no keeping a good man down and Henry's exceptional ability to deliver cost Middlesbrough the three points that would have pushed them up into the top half of the table.

This was not the result Arsenal required to maintain their recent surge towards the top two and they are now 10 points adrift of Chelsea, and some 14 shy of leaders Manchester United who face Tottenham today.

But Arsenal should be grateful for small mercies. The point gained here could quite easily have been none had Middlesbrough been able to retain the lead given to them just after the hour courtesy of Yakubu's cool penalty.

The controversial decision also led to Philippe Senderos, the Gunners defender, being red-carded for his pull on Yakubu as the Nigerian ran through on goal. Lehmann received a yellow card for his protestations and was involved in the equaliser when, despite claims he had stepped out of his box, he started the move that led to Henry's strike.

One Middlesbrough player many would have expected to have gone into hiding for the visit of Arsenal was Brad Jones, the young Aussie goalkeeper. When Mark Schwarzer's understudy was last asked to face the Gunners he ended up conceding seven on the Teessiders' visit to Highbury.

But there was no danger of a repeat. The threat of Henry, who hit a hat-trick in the 7-0 win, was nowhere near as large.

Having scored in each of his previous three Premiership outings, Henry has recaptured the sort of form that has quite rightly earned him a reputation as one of the greatest players in Premiership history. But despite his stature, Cattermole's awesome early tackle near the left touchline left Arsenal's captain stunned. It also illustrated how Middlesbrough were not going to be overawed on this occasion.

And it was a striker wearing the Middlesbrough red, Mark Viduka, who started the most purposefully. On two occasions in the opening quarter of an hour, his clever thinking created openings down the left.

Arsenal, back on track in recent months after a run of just one defeat in 15 games, did not resemble a side sitting fourth in the opening half-hour with their best opportunity a Gilberto Silva free-kick that bounced harmlessly in front of Kolo Touré and behind for a goal-kick.

Nevertheless that proved to be the start of an increase in Arsenal pressure. Pressure which ultimately could have heralded the first goal before half-time, had Tomas Rosicky, the Czech midfielder, directed his stunning right-foot volley left of the upright instead of right after Woodgate's clearance.

Henry went a little closer, curling into the hands of Jones from 20 yards when it looked impossible to find a way through a group of red Middlesbrough shirts. Far from being cautious, Gareth Southgate, the Middlesbrough manager, brought on natural right-winger James Morrison for the second half and the change altered the pace of the game for the better.

The home side's refreshing adventure going forward also opened up gaps for Arsenal to exploit at the other end. Neither Jones nor Lehmann had been seriously tested until the penalty. Whether it should have been awarded, Viduka was instrumental once again. The former Leeds striker's flick sent Yakubu in a race with Senderos and the defender's pull gave Mr Riley the opportunity to point to the spot. And the Nigerian, like so often this season, sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.

It was exactly what Middlesbrough had craved and deserved. Arsenal, despite being a man down, continued to show the nice touches normally associated with them but without testing Jones until the latter stages. Even then Jones could do little to prevent Henry's quick feet from making the most of Adebayor's knock-down inside the Middlesbrough box.