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The BBC's Dave Woods
"They had a couple of chances to make the scoreline more decisive"
 real 28k

Sunday, 12 March, 2000, 17:04 GMT
Gunners go down at The Riverside

Ince gave Boro the breakthrough in the 48th minute
Middlesbrough 2-1 Arsenal

Arsenal's title challenge suffered another blow as they sunk to a 2-1 defeat at struggling Middlesbrough.

Paul Ince and Hamilton Ricard did the damage for Boro and though Dennis Bergkamp pulled one back in a late Arsenal fightback, the home side hung on.

Match facts
48 mins: Ince's header gives Boro the lead
63 mins: Vieira's backpass allows Ricard to make it 2-0
70 mins: Bergkamp pulls one back for Arsenal
The Gunners were chasing the three points they needed to move back into third place in the Premiership but it was Boro who showed more desire as they clinched the victory which moves them ten points clear of the relegation zone.

Arsenal had scored 11 goals in their last two encounters with Bryan Robson's men.

And though they battered the Teessiders in a first-half attacking storm, the match was goalless at the break.

Ray Parlour could have given Arsenal a two goal lead after the opening 20 minutes, blasting high with his first shot and hitting the post with his second.

Injuries had forced Arsene Wenger to ask Emmanuel Petit to vacate his usual midfield role for the back-four in place of Nigel Winterburn.


Parlour hit the post in the first half
The switch seemed initially to have little effect on Arsenal as they dominated first-half proceedings.

Kanu, leading the line with Thierry Henry, almost bundled home an Oleg Luzhny cross on 33 minutes.

And Schwarzer was at full stretch a minute before the interval as he tipped away a curling free-kick from the Frenchman.

Before the break Boro ball-winner Paul Ince had barely left his own half but in a rare foray forward, the midfielder found the net within three minutes of the re-start as the frailties of the re-shuffled Gunners were brutally exposed.

He showed fantastic awareness as, rising for a high ball into the box with his back to goal, he sensed Manninger off his line and directed a backward header looping into the empty net.

It may have been a flick on rather than an attempt at goal, but Ince's emphatic celebration indicated he knew exactly what he was doing.


Vickers eludes Freddie Ljungberg
The goal saw Arsenal's first-half momentum grind shudderingly to a halt as their midweek efforts against Deportivo La Coruna, though hardly excessve, apparently took their toll.

Patrick Vieira looked particularly tired and it was his error which saw Boro double their lead 15 minutes later.

He failed to look over his shoulder as he blindly passed the ball backwards and it fell right into the path of Ricard.

The striker then coolly slipped the ball through the legs of Petit before slotting it past Alex Manninger.

The Austrian keeper, who had replaced the apparently injured David Seaman at half-time, had only touched the ball three times since his arrival - twice to pick the ball out of the net.

Quick change

Wenger's reaction was to immediately bring on Bergkamp - and the results were immediate too.

The Dutchman dragged Arsenal back into the game with a superbly taken 70th minute strike.

He exchanged a slick one-two with Henry on the edge of the box before guiding the ball into the roof of the net with the outside edge of his outstretched right boot.

By now Arsenal had rediscovered their early menace and they poured forward in search of the equaliser.

Boro were quick to exploit the resulting spaces at the back and Ricard should have added to his tally nine minutes from time but Manninger produced a fine double save.

By now Arsenal had Bergkamp, Kanu, Henry and Suker (who replaced Parlour) in attack, but Boro manged to repell their combined efforts to claim the points.

Teams:

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Fleming, Vickers, Cooper, Ziege, Maddison, Ince, Summerbell, Campbell, Deane, Ricard.
Subs: Gordon, Mustoe, Beresford, Juninho, Kilgannon.

Arsenal: Seaman, Luzhny, Grimandi, Petit, Silvinho, Parlour, Vieira, Ljungberg, Winterburn, Kanu, Henry.
Subs: Dixon, Suker, Bergkamp, Manninger, Malz.
Referee: R Harris (Oxford)

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See also:

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05 Mar 00 | FA Carling Premiership
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Links to other FA Carling Premiership stories are at the foot of the page.