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Football: BERGY ON CLOUD NINE; Middlesbrough 0 Arsenal 4: Strikes put Macca through the mincer.

Byline: ANDY DUNN

IF Sol Campbell did not know what Arsenal is all about ... he does now. If Steve McClaren did not know what Premier management is all about ... he does now.

This was victory Gunners-style. Sheer brilliance blighted by rank indiscipline. This was defeat Boro-style. Hard labour blighted by hard luck.

And if an Arsenal red card on an opening day of the season is not familiar enough, how about a referee causing a rumpus and a player accused of diving?

In five astonishing, closing minutes, Graham Barber and Dennis Bergkamp put McClaren through the managerial mincer before he had chance to put on the gaffer's overcoat.

With Boro desperately pushing for a deserved equaliser against ten men, Ashley Cole led a rare Arsenal breakaway.

Ugo Ehiogu crossed his path, Cole hit the turf, Barber sent the centre-half the way of Ray Parlour, Robert Pires sent Mark Schwarzer the wrong way from the spot.

Cue a total Boro collapse, substitute Bergkamp striking twice in two more mad minutes. Passes from Gilles Grimandi and Pires sent him clear - on both occasions he finished with the sort of precision that we had all but forgotten.

Added to Thierry Henry's sweet first half finish, it gave Arsenal an unthinkable margin of victory. And it must have left McClaren feeling like the kid who has been bullied on his first day at the big school.

But like that kid, he wasn't letting on. "It would have been a fairytale to win but we came up against a very good side who showed why they will be up at the top of the table this season," he said.

Which is about as far off addressing the real issue of this game as you can get.

It was an inauspicious start for a guy who is highly rated ... not least of all by himself, you suspect.

And he shied away from becoming the first Premiership boss to mark his debut with an FA rap. "The refereee has to abide by the rules and we have to live and die by those rules," he said. "Unfortunately we died by them today."

Having now seen 36 of them during his Highbury reign, Wenger is pretty adept at ducking red cards.

"In fairness, both sendings-off looked harsh," he said. "Did he touch Ashley Cole as he went past? I don't know."

Go on Arsene, say you haven't seen the replay. "I haven't seen the replay." Thanks to ITV, at least he did not have to wait so long. Contact appeared to be made - but the sort that might leave a drunken ice-skater upright.

Campbell is a new Wenger signing - after a distasteful summer of claim and counter-claim, Patrick Vieira must feel like one. Before you could say illegal approach, the outstanding French midfielder had locked horns with a vintage Paul Ince. Honours eventually went to Vieira ... just.

Behind the side's inspiration was the side's perspiration. Campbell was the only new boy to make the starting line-up ... alongside Tony Adams in a muscular central defensive pairing that would hold its own in WWF.

But nothing comes much dimmer than Parlour's red card early in the second half.

Already cautioned for a crass challenge on Dean Windass, he up-ended Ehiogu in the most innocuous of situations.

Off he went and only a David Seaman save that suggested England's World Cup fate could yet be in safe hands stopped Ince from levelling from 20 yards.

MIDDLESBROUGH: Schwarzer 6 - Cooper 6, Ehiogu 6, Southgate 6 - Fleming 6, *INCE 8, Mustoe 6 (Wilson, 72mins, 6), Windass 6 (Ricard, 55mins, 6), Greening 6 - Desire-Job 7, Boksic 7.

ARSENAL: Seaman 6 - Ljungberg 6 (Grimandi, 64mins, 6), Adams 6, Campbell 6, Cole 6 - Pires 7, *VIEIRA 8, Lauren 6, Parlour 5 - Henry 6 (Bergkamp, 72mins, 7), Wiltord 6 (Van Bronckhorst, 82mins, 6). Ref: G Barber 6.

CAPTION(S):

BALL RACE: Scorer Thierry Henry sets off with Boro defender Ugo Ehiogu hot on his heels; GLORY BOY: Bergkamp points to his Arsenal badge after notching two goals but Ray Parlour (inset) saw red
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Aug 19, 2001
Words:676
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