9 April 2004: Arsenal come back from 2-1 down to beat Liverpool 4-2 in the 31st league game of the unbeaten season. Henry scores a hat trick
It was the moment when all the press turned out in order to knock Arsenal and their “pretentiousness” of thinking they could win the league without losing a game. They have revelled in Arsenal’s defeat in the FA Cup semi final on 3 April 2004, a 0-1 defeat to Man U.
In the Champions League Arsenal had drawn away 1-1 with Chelsea on 24 March 2004, and looked set fair to progress, but on 6 April 2004 a 1-2 home defeat had knocked them out of the quarter finals.
So the computer keys were sharpened and the journalistic world got ready to laugh at Arsenal. And indeed when Sami Hyypia’s headed in the opener on the fifth minute, they were ready to proclaim Arsenal’s total collapse.
3 April 2004, a 0-1 defeat to Man U. FA Cup
6 April 2004, 1-2 defeat in the Champions League to Chelsea
9 April 2004, 0-1 down at home to Liverpool
The match had begun with Arsenal top, of course, and Liverpool in fourth, 25 points behind. Tottenham, we may note in passing was nowhere in sight, languishing in 12th on 37 points, which coincidentally was also 37 points behind Arsenal.
Indeed Liverpool were closer to Wolverhampton Wanderers, the bottom club in the league on 24 points, than they were to Arsenal at the top. But still the press were predicting a Liverpool victory and an Arsenal collapse.
So joy was unsurpassed in the press box as Liverpool took he lead, and Robert Pires equaliser was considered a minor reprieve from the Big Story they were there to write. True Liverpool had already lost at home to Arsenal, but no club could ever go all season unbeaten – especially Arsenal.
But then Henry took offconjured up a stunning goal in the way that only he could. rike. He completed his hat-trick midway through the half with an admittedly fortunate fourth goal.
However it is said that fortune favours the brave and Wenger’s side certainly showed that quality today.
It seems that reports of Arsenal’s demise have been very much exaggerated.
Before kick-off, Wenger made two changes from the side knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea in midweek.
Jose Antonio Reyes and Edu dropped to the bench with Dennis Bergkamp and Gilberto taking over their respective roles. Henry did start. The suspected hamstring problem that forced him off late on Tuesday turned out to be a “locked back”.
The manager had said he was likely to feature in one of the Easter games. After two successive defeats, the need for victory today was acute.
But it could not have started in a worse way. In the fifth minute, Harry Kewell thumped a corner to the far post, Gerrard nodded it back and Hyypia threw himself at the ball to head home from close range.
The pressure was on.
Only a superb challenge from Sol Campbell stopped Owen racing clear in the 12th minute. Arsenal had recovered and were pressing forward but Hyypia’s hoofed clearance sent the England striker through. His international team-mate hooked the ball away at the last second.
Still, Arsenal had regained some of their swagger and were starting to knock the ball around with menace just outside the Liverpool area. An offside Henry even put the ball past keeper Jerzy Dudek and into the net.
Liverpool had been pushed back but they might have gone further ahead when, following fine work on the right by El-Hadji Diouf, a shot by Kewell deflected off Lauren’s body and nearly curled in at the far post.
In the 26th minute, Henry fed Ljungberg and the Swede scurried into the area to force a fine save from Dudek at the near post. From the resulting corner, Henry blasted over.
Again, Arsenal looked confident but again Liverpool carved themselves a great chance. On the half-hour, John Arne Riise clipped a ball over the home defence and Owen raced through with Campbell in hot pursuit. Lehmann rushed but the striker beat him to the ball, however the touch was poor and his toe-poke drifted over the bar.
He was made to pay a minute later.
Pires spotted Henry on the left the area and chipped a pass forward. Henry controlled it with the inside his right foot and then planted a shot through the legs of Dudek with his left.
It was his 105th Premiership goal – a new record for an Arsenal player.
The team – and the supporters – were roaring again. Pires and Ljungberg started to find space on the flanks as Highbury sensed a comeback. They also had a decent penalty appeal turned down.
However they were caught cold once more. Five minutes before the break Gerrard threaded a slide-rule pass through to Owen on the corner of the six-yard box and the pacy striker swivelled to send his shot past Lehmann.
Within 30 seconds of the restart, Lauren and Ljungberg combined on the right then, after a penalty appeal against Hyypia, Henry scooped a shot around the far post.
Straight away, Kewell dragged a shot wide after the lively Owen had turned Toure.
Then came that double. In the 49th minute, Henry tapped the ball to Ljungberg who immediately sidefooted a pass for Pires to ran onto. He held off his marker to prod home the equaliser from eight-yards.
It was a well-worked goal. The one that put Arsenal ahead a minute later was anything but. It was a one-man show and, as ever, the star was Thierry Henry.
Picking up the ball 25 yards out, the Frenchman shrugged off one challenge and then turned on the turbo to weave through the Liverpool defence. Then he came face-to-face with Dudek. But the keeper had little chance and he stroke home his 33rd goal of the season.
As a celebration he ran towards the East Stand kissing his badge.
After such a high, the game hit a lull. Liverpool, though stunned, were still dangerous. However the Arsenal defence seemed to have regained some of their composure.
In the 69th minute, Lauren crossed from the right and the ball sailed over the head of Igor Biscan to Henry six yards out. The striker’s header was firm but just too high for his hat-trick.
He did not have to wait too long. In the 77th minute, Bergkamp picked out Henry on the edge of the area. He controlled the ball and got his shot away. It bounced back off the prone Dudek, hit the Frenchman and rolled back into the net.
Ljungberg and Edu, on for Pires, had chances to score again as Liverpool’s challenge began to crumble away. Arsenal held on with relative ease.
So it’s seven points clear with seven games left. Although this victory doesn’t make up for those two earlier defeats, it helps every Highbury-hearted fan feel a whole heap better.
Thierry Henry’s hat-trick put Arsenal seven points clear at top of the table.
Liverpool threatened to increase Arsenal’s misery after the FA Cup and Champions League exits when Sami Hyypia headed them ahead after five minutes.
Henry raced clear to equalise after 31 minutes, but Michael Owen restored Liverpool’s lead before half-time.
Arsenal scored twice in a minute early in the second half through Robert Pires and an Henry wonder goal, before he completed his treble after 78 minutes.
Henry passed a late fitness test on his back injury as Arsenal attempted to get their season on course after a week of bitter disappointment.
I felt the way they responded was absolutely magnificent
Arsenal delayed their appearance on to the pitch until virtually the last-minute, but it was Liverpool who made the faster start and took the lead after five minutes.
Liverpool forced three quick corners, and when Steven Gerrard re-directed Harry Kewell’s delivery, Hyypia scored with a diving header.
Arsenal were stunned and it needed a smart intervention from Sol Campbell to stop Owen reaching John Arne Riise’s through ball.
The Gunners finally spluttered into life when Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek was forced to produce a fine reaction save from Freddie Ljungberg’s angled drive.
Jens Lehmann, the much-criticised Arsenal goalkeeper, was uncertain again when he allowed Owen to reach a though ball ahead of him, and he was fortunate to see the striker’s shot drift over the top.
Arsenal were in desperate need of a moment of creation, and they got it after 31 minutes.
5 mins: Sami Hyypia heads Liverpool ahead
31 mins: Thierry Henry equalises for Arsenal
43 mins: Michael Owen puts Liverpool back in front
49 mins: Robert Pires puts Arsenal level again
50 mins: Henry’s wonder goal gives Arsenal the lead
78 mins: Henry completed his hat-trick and gets Arsenal’s fourth
Gilberto robbed Dietmar Hamann, and when Pires found Henry he provided a composed finish to beat Dudek.
But as Arsenal attempted to settle their nerves, Liverpool struck again three minutes before the interval.
Gerrard’s brilliant through ball allowed Owen to cleverly escape the attentions of Campbell, and this time he made no mistake.
It was a pivotal moment in Arsenal’s season – and they responded magnificently with two goals in a minute to take the lead.
Henry and Ljungberg combined after 49 minutes to set up Pires for a crisp finish past Dudek.
And then, a minute later, came the latest addition to Henry’s catalogue of magical moments that have graced this season.
Henry got possession just inside the Liverpool half before setting off on a dazzling run that left Hamann and Jamie Carragher trailing in his wake before providing the finish the move deserved.
I thought Arsenal were stunning in the second half
Arsenal were going for the kill, while Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier introduced Milan Baros for the disappointing Emile Heskey in a bid to turn the tide.
Wenger also made a change, sending on Edu for the tiring Pires.
Henry completed his hat-trick to seal a crucial victory, taking advantage of slack marking and Dennis Bergkamp’s through ball to bundle home with 12 minutes left.
It was the result Arsenal needed so badly, and left Liverpool still fighting a battle for fourth place.
Arsenal: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole, Ljungberg (Keown 90), Vieira, Silva, Pires (Edu 72), Bergkamp, Henry.
Subs not used: Reyes, Clichy, Shaaban.
Booked: Cole, Vieira, Lauren.
Liverpool: Dudek, Carragher, Hyypia, Biscan, Riise, Diouf (Murphy 85), Hamann, Gerrard, Kewell, Heskey (Baros 66), Owen.
Subs not used: Henchoz, Cheyrou, Luzi Bernardi.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).