Goalscorers: Edu 34 OG, Silvinho 38 OG, Hamilton Ricard 58
Arsenal: David Seaman, Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown, Silvinho, Edu (Sylvain Wiltord 46), Patrick Vieira, Freddie Ljungberg (Ray Parlour 75), Robert Pires, Kanu, Thierry Henry
Middlesbrough: Mark Schwarzer, Ugo Ehiogu, Jason Gavin, Dean Gordon, Steve Vickers, Paul Okon, Paul Ince, Christian Karembeu, Alen Boksic (Robbie Mustoe 89), Hamilton Ricard (Phil Stamp 79), Dean Windass
Referee: Paul Durkin, Attendance: 37,879
Arsenal went into this match in April 2001 knowing they were in the position of needing to win to stop Manchester United being crowned Premier League champions. Arsene Wenger’s side had little hope of catching the dominant Red Devils but a victory over struggling Middlesbrough would delay the inevitable for another week at least.
Boro turned up at Highbury firmly in a relegation battle. They were scrapping with Coventry City, Derby County and Manchester City, trying to protect their top-flight status. This was predicted to be nothing more than a routine victory for the home side but with a bit of luck and help, the visitors were about to upset the formbook in spectacular fashion.
In the televised lunchtime kick-off, Manchester United had defeated Coventry 4-2 so Arsenal needed to respond. Naturally, they made the faster start and could have been ahead inside the opening 10 minutes. Thierry Henry’s through ball split the Teesiders defensive line but Mark Schwarzer managed to thwart Kanu’s effort. Henry then sent a curling effort from distance just fractionally over the crossbar as Wenger’s side looked to stamp their authority. However, they were about to experience a nightmare four-minute spell that left any mathematical hopes they had of the championship in tatters.
In the 34th minute, Dean Windass made the most of a timid clearance from Arsenal captain Tony Adams. The forward tried his luck with what seemed like an ambitious drive from distance. Fortune favoured the ex-Bradford man as his shot came off the heel of Gunners defensive midfielder Edu and completely deceived David Seaman to give Middlesbrough the lead.
Everyone inside Highbury got the inkling this would be Middlesbrough’s day with their second goal which incredibly was another own goal. This time, it was fellow Brazilian Silvinho who was the culprit. Dean Gordon made one of his trademark runs from left-back. His cross into the box should have been cleared comfortably by Silvinho. However, he made a complete hash of a simple clearance and diverted the ball beyond Seaman’s sprawling dive. His face spoke volumes afterwards. Arsenal needed a miracle to stop the title being settled quicker than expected.
Despite having loads of possession, the hosts were lacking the clinical cutting edge. Kanu headed wide from close-range and trying to make up for his earlier error, Silvinho bent a free-kick just past Schwarzer’s post. If there was luck around Middlesbrough’s first two goals, there was nothing fortunate about the third. Colombian forward Hamilton Ricard linked up brilliantly with Alen Boksic and Ricard produced the telling finish past Seaman to put the result beyond doubt.
It was a rare Middlesbrough victory at Highbury and produced the platform for them to survive under the temporary guidance of ex-England boss Terry Venables. Arsenal finished runners-up for the third successive season but their trophy famine extended to three years.