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Sunday, 12 January, 2003, 18:24 GMT
Arsenal brush Blues aside
Arsenal goalscores Thierry Henry and Robert Pires celebrate
Henry claimed his 100th goal for Arsenal
Birmingham 0-4 Arsenal

St Andrews served up some classic Gallic flair in the first meeting between Birmingham and Arsenal in 16 seasons - but it was not the debut that Christophe Dugarry had been hoping for.

The French World Cup winner impressed on his Premiership bow after completing a loan switch from Bordeaux earlier in the week, one of four Blues new boys making their first Premiership start.

But he was outshone as Arsenal re-established their five-point cushion at the top of the Premiership with the aid of their own brilliant French connection.

Thierry Henry struck twice to reach 100 goals for the Gunners and Robert Pires struck a superb first-half goal.

Arsenal's goal haul
6 mins: Henry skips past Vaesen to open the scoring
29 mins: Pires lashes home a superb second
67 mins: Lauren heads home Bergkamp cross
70 mins: Henry ends fine move with 100th goal for Arsenal
Cameroon wing-back Lauren also got in on the act as Arsenal totally dominated a game that almost failed to kick off.

The match started 30 minutes late because of a floodlight problem, but Arsenal's brilliance soon lit up St Andrews.

Dugarry had already gone close with a left-foot volley by the time Henry showed him the way on six minutes.

Dennis Bergkamp opened up the Blues' defence with a perfectly weighted pass and Henry darted into the pocket between back-line and goalkeeper.

The finish was beautiful in its simplicity as Henry rounded Nico Vaesen before clipping home for a sublime opener.

Birmingham new boy Christophe Dugarry challenges Arsenal's Martin Keown.
Dugarry challenges Arsenal defender Keown
Vaesen brilliantly kept Birmingham in touch when he blocked Edu's close-range volley from an Arsenal corner and Henry shot into the side-netting after Bergkamp and Pires had combined superbly to set him up.

But their was little Vaesen could do about Arsenal's second as the visitors snuffed out Birmingham's best spell of pressure with a clinical breakaway goal.

Michael Johnson's weak defensive header dropped into the path of Pires and the Frenchman exacted swift punishment as he lashed home from the edge of the area without breaking stride.

Birmingham must have been wishing the floodlights would fail again, but any hopes of a Blues comeback were switched off by two goals in three second-half minutes.

I'm delighted with my 100th goal and hopefully it won't be my last

Thierry Henry

Lauren put the result beyond doubt when he headed home a Bergkamp cross with the help of a deflection off Michael Johnson on 67 minutes.

And Henry completed his Arsenal century 20 minutes from time, ending a brilliant Arsenal build-up involving Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord with another neat waltz around Vaesen and a composed finish.

It was a tough first game but I'm confident Birmingham will stay up

Birmingham debutant Jamie Clapham
Henry came within a whisker of completing his hat-trick 10 minutes from time when he brilliantly bent a shot beyond Vaesen but wide of the far post.

The striker's former French team-mate Dugarry had the best of Birmingham's rare threatening moments before being replaced six minutes from time.



Birmingham: Vaesen, Coly (Grainger 68), Vickers, Michael Johnson, Kenna, Damien Johnson, Savage, Clemence (Devlin 68), Clapham, John, Dugarry (Kirovski 85).
Subs not used: Bennett, Hutchinson.

Booked: Coly, Damien Johnson.

Arsenal: Seaman, Lauren, Keown, Campbell, Cole, Wiltord, Edu (van Bronckhorst 75), Silva, Pires (Toure 79), Bergkamp (Jeffers 78), Henry.
Subs not used: Luzhny, Taylor.

Booked: Lauren, Keown.

Attendance: 29,505

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Ian Brown
"Arsenal were back to their sublime form"
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"It was a great performance"
Birmingham boss Steve Bruce
"We were beaten by a far better team"
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12 Jan 03 | Eng Prem
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