Arsenal 1 Middlesbrough 1

So unpredictable are Middlesbrough that despite having a man sent off, drawing against a team who had thrashed them 7-0 last season is typical of the Teessiders these days.

This season has seen defeats to Reading and Portsmouth, a win over Chelsea and now a draw at Arsenal, who eight months ago inflicted Boro's heaviest defeat for 52 years.

But, unlike that loss in their final visit to Highbury or the more recent 4-0 defeat to Portsmouth, Gareth Southgate's stubborn and organised Boro were defiant in their defending on Saturday, especially so after George Boateng was red-carded midway through the second half.

By that stage James Morrison had put Middlesbrough ahead in the first half but Boro's resilient rearguard succeeded in stifling Arsenal who dominated possession but were often their own worst enemy, attempting to score the perfect goal by passing the ball too often when in shooing distance.

The statistics say it all: Arsenal forced a huge 15 corners but Boro did not win one while the Gunners managed 20 shots at goal compared to Middlesbrough's lone effort.

But that first half shot from Morrison was all Southgate's side needed to claim their first point at Arsenal in six attempts and the hosts' goal came via a penalty.

That Boro earned a deserved draw was the only statistic that mattered to Southgate who saw Jonathan Woodgate provide the defensive assurance missing against Portsmouth in his first competitive game since last season.

The display reminded everyone of his international class.

Woodgate nullified the threat of Thierry Henry who had to rely on a penalty for his goal but when Woodgate was not blocking his path to goal, keeper Mark Schwarzer proved a formidable barrier.

The Australian was kept busy but he was equal to everything Arsenal could offer - and they offered a lot - but it was Woodgate who impressed most.

Including matches against Leeds United and Newcastle, Henry has now failed to score from open play when up against Woodgate in their last four full matches against one another.

Of course, Henry did score against Real Madrid in the Champions League last season but by that stage Woodgate had gone off injured and one moment on Saturday in the first half summed up their day.

Rob van Persie sent Henry racing away but Woodgate matched the striker stride for stride before executing a block tackle when it seemed the Frenchman would at least test Schwarzer.

And that was despite having to turn 180 degrees and then catch up with Henry who, once in full-flight, is usually unstoppable.

"That was his first competitive game since last season. To get a display of that calibre was awesome," admitted Southgate, his predecessor in the Boro side.

"It was a fantastic coup to get him here in the first place. He showed character to stay in there because he was physically shattered by the end of the game.

"He dug in for the team and now it's about keeping him on the field and he is committed towards doing just that.

"He has matured fantastically since I last saw him. He wants to show people what he can do.

"When I first talked to him about coming here he said he wanted to prove himself in Madrid but he does realise that if he wants international recognition and get his career back on track he needs a full season and that's why he has come to us.

"I want to help him develop as a player. But I won't have to say too much to him if he performs like he did today."

Arsenal's five-a-side style football - constant short, quick passes - is entertaining to watch but Middlesbrough remained focused to restrict the hosts, though Schwarzer had to be alert on several occasions in the first half.

Most notable were Alexander Hleb's powerful close-range drive but just three minutes later Boro took a shock lead in their first attack.

On the edge of the Arsenal penalty area Jason Euell, another debutant and one of five Middlesbrough changes, played a one-two with Morrison and the Darlington-born midfielder finished tidily.

The goal shook Arsenal but they were soon back into their rhythm with Schwarzer grabbing the ball at the second attempt after Cesc Fabregas's long-range shot while Woodgate threw himself in the way of a van Persie shot.

Van Persie displayed his frustration at Woodgate's dominance with a cynical challenge in the second half when he grounded the defender with a very late tackle. Clearly Middlesbrough's stubborn resilience was too much to bear.

"You do worry about a tackle like that," admitted Southgate. "But his composure filtered throughout the side.

"His presence was calming on everybody, even Emanuel Pogatetz!"

That foul sparked a series of challenges and bookings, ultimately ending in Boateng's second yellow for a wild lunge at Fredrik Ljunberg on the touchline.

The Dutchman had been booked for contesting the referee's decision to allow Henry to take a quick free-kick, and the Frenchman soon had another dead ball opportunity, this time a successfully-taken penalty given thanks to Stewart Downing's foul on Emmanuel Eboue.

Down to ten men against a team who had thrashed them last season and were dominating possession - it did not look good for Boro who hardly entered Arsenal's half in the last 30 minutes.

But they stood their ground and despite the immense Woodgate tiring in the closing stages and Arsene Wenger's last throw of the dice in the form of a triple substitution, Boro hung on for a very satisfactory draw.

Southgate added: "The character and resilience we showed in the last half hour was fantastic. We knew we had a job to do in defence. We knew what we wanted to do and we knew we had to be at our best but to be honest I wanted to do more than we did from an attacking point of view.

"We showed the character we will need for the rest of the season. I could not have asked for anymore from any of them."

Throughout Boro fans were singing "Woodgate's coming home" and their new hero already appears to be right at home in Southgate's former position at the centre of Middlesbrough's defence.

If Steve McClaren does the right thing, he'll soon be occupying Rio Ferdinand's England place too.