Arsenal top but end of winning run spoils Wenger's birthday

LONDON (AP) " Arsenal went top of the Premier League after being held 0-0 at home on Saturday by struggling Middlesbrough as Arsene Wenger's team failed to give him a win for his 67th birthday present.

The Gunners' run of six straight league victories came to an end amid wasteful finishing and Petr Cech's brilliance in goal.

Having survived an ominous opening quarter camped on the edge of its own penalty area, Middlesbrough settled and grew in confidence at the Emirates stadium.

Adama Traore took advantage of Laurent Koscielny's lapse in concentration to get in behind the Arsenal defence but was thwarted by a fine Cech save before Alvaro Negredo misfired the rebound.

Middlesbrough continued to threaten through Gaston Ramirez, who first struck the woodwork with a near-perfect free kick before heading an even better opportunity straight at the surprisingly busy Cech.

Inspired by Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal emerged with renewed intent after halftime as the Chile forward fired just wide with a free kick before forcing two fine saves from Victor Valdes.

However, the action was far from one way as Traore came close once more, drawing a full-stretch save from Cech after a pulsating run from inside his own half.

Lucas Perez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were introduced either side of the 70th, but neither had the desired effect as an exasperated Wenger patrolled the touchline with his arms outstretched.

The visitors, who had lost five of their last six Premier League games after a promising start to the season, naturally retreated in the closing stages. It looked like they'd paid the ultimate price in stoppage time but Mesut Ozil was rightly flagged offside as he flicked Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross shot into the net.

Arsenal is top with 20 points but can be overtaken by Manchester City, which hosts Southampton on Sunday.

Middlesbrough has seven points from nine matches.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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