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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 20:40 GMT 21:40 UK
Arsenal hit Saints for six
Pennant celebrates his hat-trick
Arsenal 6-1 Southampton

Arsenal's Jermaine Pennant marked his Premiershjp debut with a hat-trick against humiliated FA Cup final opponents Southampton - but as a Cardiff dress rehearsal this Highbury encounter was a non-event.

Arsene Wenger's side attempted to ease the disappointment of losing the title to Manchester United by taking a re-shuffled Southampton apart.

Pennant scored a hat-trick inside ten minutes in the first half, and Robert Pires was also on target three times as Arsenal strolled to an embarrassingly easy win.

Jo Tessem fired a meek reply for Southampton, but it was no form guide for the showpiece clash at The Millennium Stadium, such was the unfamiliar look of both line-up.

The two teams bore little resemblance to those that will face each other in Cardiff on 17 May as Arsenal romped to their biggest league win of the season.

Wenger and counterpart Gordon Strachan rested key players - and Arsenal took advantage of the weakened Saints to run in five goals in a one-sided first half.

Pennant was the star of a slightly farcical show, as he demonstrated the potential that made him Britain's most expensive teenager when Arsenal paid Notts County 2m.

Arsenal opened the scoring after nine minutes when Pires tapped home a simple rebound after Southampton keeper Paul Jones saved his first attempt.

And the Gunners doubled their lead eight minutes later when Kanu and Thierry Henry combined before Giovanni van Bronckhorst set up Pennant for a calm finish.

Southampton were a total shambles and Arsenal went further ahead after 20 minutes when Pennant headed home another rebound after Jones parried Henry's deflected shot.

And just three minutes later, it was 4-0 as Henry set through Pires, who drove his shot past Jones inside the near post.

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Arsenal were running riot, adding a fifth after 26 minutes, Pennant completing his hat-trick after more great work by Henry.

Southampton stemmed the tide through Tessem's goal ten minutes before the interval, but it was the briefest of reprieves.

Pires completed his treble two minutes after the break with a brilliant 25-yard chip over the stranded Jones.

Southampton managed a rally in the second half, and James Beattie came off the substitute's bench.

He saw a good effort pushed on to the bar by Stuart Taylor as he attempted to draw level with Manchester United's Ruud van Nistelrooy as the Premiership's leading goalscorer.


Arsenal: Taylor, Toure, Luzhny (Tavlaridis 76), Stepanovs, Garry, Pennant (Hoyte 90), Parlour, van Bronckhorst, Pires (Bergkamp 62), Kanu, Henry. Subs Not Used: Wiltord, Warmuz.

Booked: Henry.

Southampton: Jones, Telfer, Williams, Michael Svensson, Bridge, Fernandes (Baird 27), Prutton, Anders Svensson (Oakley 55), Higginbotham, Tessem, Kevin Davies (Beattie 76). Subs Not Used: Aaron Davies, Ormerod.

Booked: Anders Svensson.

Attendance: 38,052.

Referee: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Five Live's Alan Green
"A marvellous Arsenal display"


Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"We had to win for the fans"



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