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Saturday, 30 March, 2002, 16:54 GMT
Arsenal maul Sunderland
Dennis Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord on the scoresheet for Arsenal
Bergkamp and Wiltord on target for the Gunners
Arsenal 3-0 Sunderland
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Arsenal produced another spellbinding display as they tore apart a shellshocked Sunderland to keep the pressure on leaders Liverpool.

Two goals in the opening three minutes from Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp left the Black Cats chasing shadows at a sun-drenched Highbury.

Peter Reid's side simply had no reply to the free-flowing Gunners, with Sylvain Wiltord scoring Arsenal's third.

The comprehensive nature of the defeat could have a confidence-sapping effect on Sunderland and their survival chances.

But Arsenal were in no mood to be charitable and made sure the destiny of the Premiership title remained very much in their own hands.

  Key moments
81 secs: Patrick Vieira slides in Arsenal's first
3 mins: Dennis Bergkamp taps home second of the afternoon
30 mins: Sylvain Wiltord scores the Gunners' third

The home fans had barely settled into their seats when confusion in the Sunderland defence allowed Vieira to pinch a wayward back-pass and slide the ball home.

If the opener was a gift, then the second was almost as generous.


Henry was outstanding in providing chances
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger

A speculative cross from Freddie Ljungberg reached Thierry Henry out wide. His hopeful volley found Bergkamp, who tapped in.

A brief lull gave Sunderland some hope that they might get back into the game.

And Kevin Phillips should have pulled one back for the visitors on 16 minutes.

Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira celebrates scoring
Vieira was gifted the opener

But, having done all the hard work in shrugging off Sol Campbell and rounding David Seaman, the Sunderland striker contrived to hit the side netting.

Phillips' miss summed up Sunderland's season and Reid - in his seventh year at the club - could only hold his head in his hands in anguish on the touchline.


We knew Arsenal are always very quick out of the blocks but we shot ourselves in the foot
Sunderland boss Peter Reid

Arsenal then stepped up a gear and Wiltord added a third on the half hour.

Bergkamp picked up the ball on the edge of the area, shimmied and passed delightfully to Wiltord, who elegantly dispatched the ball with his left foot.

The absence of Robert Pires, out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, was felt - but only in the sense that he too probably would have got onto the scoresheet.

Arsenal winger Robert Pires
Pires: Given a standing ovation

A more spirited Sunderland emerged after the interval and substitute Thomas Butler struck a fine shot just over the bar.

Claudio Reyna tested Seaman and Phillips went agonisingly close.

But Arsenal were just too strong for Sunderland and always looked likely to score again.

Indeed, Henry found the back of the net only to have his "goal" ruled out for offside.

As chants of "championes, championes" echoed around Highbury, the outstanding Tony Adams could reflect on what was a memorable 500th appearance for the club.

And on this display, the Arsenal captain could well be lifting the Premiership trophy come May.


Arsenal: Seaman, Cole, Luzhny, Campbell, Adams, Ljungberg (Kanu 77), Vieira, Edu, Wiltord (Grimandi 68), Henry, Bergkamp (Jeffers 78).
Subs Not Used: Dixon, Wright.

Sunderland: Sorensen, Gray, Reyna, McCann, Bjorklund, McAteer (Butler 45), Craddock, Williams, Thirlwell, Phillips (Kilbane 76), Mboma (Quinn 21).
Subs Not Used: McCartney, Macho.
Booked: McCann, Reyna, McAteer.

Att: 38,047

Ref: P Durkin (Dorset).

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Steve Wilson
"Sunderland were poor"
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"It was a very good game"
Links to more Eng Prem stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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