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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 November, 2003, 16:56 GMT
Arsenal stay top
Birmingham 0-3 Arsenal

Freddie Ljungberg celebrates scoring for Arsenal

Arsenal moved back to the summit of the Premiership with a professional performance at high-flying Birmingham.

Freddie Ljungberg, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires scored as Arsenal extended their unbeaten run since the start of the season to 13 games - a new Premiership record.

Arsene Wenger's 400th match in charge of the Gunners was a contest of few chances but under-strength Arsenal never seemed like losing it after Ljungberg's early goal.

Arsenal went into the match without Patrick Vieira, Martin Keown, Ray Parlour and Lauren - all suspended as a consequence of their antics at Old Trafford earlier in the season.

With such depleted resources Wenger handed a debut to young French defender Gael Clichy, while Pascal Cygan made his first start of the season.

Birmingham had only conceded eight Premiership goals in their 12 games so far this season, but Arsenal quickly unpicked their defence.

Bergkamp intercepted an unusually poor clearance from Kenny Cunningham and picked out Henry, who in turn passed for Ljungberg to slide the ball home.

Birmingham tried to assert themselves on the match after Ljungberg's goal but Arsenal, calm in possession, rarely looked like conceding.

KEY MOMENTS
4 mins: Ljungberg scores for Arsenal
48 mins: Taylor saves from Henry
80 mins: Bergkamp seals the win
88 mins: Pires scores Arsenal's third
Stan Lazaridis did force Gunners goalkeeper Jens Lehmann into action with a shot on the turn, but the German goalkeeper was equal to the test.

Henry should have put Arsenal further in front shortly after the break, bursting clear down the left, but was thwarted by Taylor, who tipped the ball out for a corner.

Birmingham, for all their commitment and hard work, still offered little in attack and almost conceded an own goal.

Cunningham almost deflected the ball into his own net as he tried to prevent an Ashley Cole cross reaching Pires.

However, Mikael Forssell did get across Cygan and headed goalwards but his attempt drifted agonisingly wide of the Arsenal goal.

And any thoughts of a grandstand finish by Birmingham were extinguished when Arsenal struck on the break.

Kanu and Henry linked to put Bergkamp through, who charged goalwards from the halfway line before chipping Taylor for his first goal in 16 games.

And Pires completed a successful afternoon for the visitors with a third shortly before the final whistle.


Birmingham: Taylor, Johnson, Cunningham, Upson, Clapham, Clemence, Savage, Cisse (John 64), Lazaridis (Hughes 85), Forssell (Morrison 87), Dunn.
Subs Not Used: Bennett, Tebily.

Booked: Cisse.

Arsenal: Lehmann, Toure, Cygan, Campbell, Cole, Ljungberg, Edu, Clichy (Kanu 59), Pires (Hoyte 90), Bergkamp (Aliadiere 90), Henry.
Subs Not Used: Tavlaridis, Stack.

Booked: Toure, Edu.

Attendance: 29,588

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Five Live's Simon Brotherton
"Arsenal deserved this victory"


Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"Once again we showed outstanding character"




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