By Richard Clarke
Thierry Henry hit his 50th European goal as Arsenal took charge of Champions League Group G with a controlled and competent 2-0 win over Porto on Tuesday.
The Frenchman reached the landmark in his 105th game in Continental competition with a well-executed far-post header from Emmanuel Eboue's incredible cross eight minutes before half time.
Two minutes after the interval, Henry and William Gallas set up Alex Hleb to thump home a second goal. In reality, Porto's spirited first-half challenge died after that and Arsenal cruised home.
With CSKA Moscow beating Hamburg in the other group game, Arsène Wenger’s side now top the table with six points. The Russian side are second with four.
The manager had said a victory tonight would go a long way to putting them through to the Knockout Stages. The utterly dominant nature of this performance suggests Arsenal will complete the job sooner rather than later.
Wenger's team-sheet saw two changes from the side that had beaten Sheffield United on Saturday. Alex Hleb came in for Freddie Ljungberg and Emmanuel Adebayor was replaced by Robin van Persie.
However, in the warm-up, Johan Djourou aggravated the foot injury that had been troubling him and Justin Hoyte stepped up from the bench. The England Under-21 defender slotted in at left back with Gallas switching to centre back.
The opening exchanges belonged to Arsenal. Van Persie and Tomas Rosicky bothered Porto keeper Helton with shots from distance. Inbetween those efforts Kolo Toure stabbed home the ball from close range but the ball had gone out of play in the build-up.
However, this busy Porto side soon managed to push the hosts back. In the 13th minute, Bruno Alves met Anderson's corner at the near post. Jens Lehmann saved adroitly with his feet.
The Portuguese champions began to recycle possession efficiently. However chances were scarce. In the 22nd minute, Lehmann flailed at Anderson's corner, Lucho Gonzalez miscued his shot and Alves made a hash of an expansive overhead kick.
Not that Arsenal were creating much at the other end. Henry and Eboue found space on the right flank and an sent inquisitive crosses into the area. No one could get on the end of them.
The chance the home side had been waiting for arrived on the half-hour. Henry meandered his way across the edge of the area before slipping a pass to the isolated Van Persie on the right side of the area. The Dutchman took one touch and then another. He was eight yards out with only the keeper to beat. He went for power over placement and hacked his shot high over the bar.
It was a bad miss but it seemed to fire up Arsenal. Fabregas fired over and Van Persie stung Helton's hands low at the near post.
Eight minutes from the break they finally got their goal they had been threatening. Eboue teased and tempted Marek Cech before sending in an ambitous curling cross. It had sufficient pace to beat the leaping Pepe and yet not enough to fly over Henry, who was stationed just behind him at the far post. The Frenchman's header was not particuarly powerful but it was expertly directed downward and into the far corner of the net.
Henry and his team-mates ran to Eboue as the crowd celebrated. That tells you everything about who deserved the most credit for the goal.
Three minutes after the re-start, the Arsenal players were mobbing Gallas after his part in the second strike. The defender danced through a couple of Porto challenges and fed Henry. He spread the ball wide to Hleb, who buried a low right-footed shot into the far corner of the net.
Rosicky skewed Henry's short corner high over the bar immediately afterwards but, in reality, Arsenal started to cruise after that and their next chance came with 12 minutes left. Henry cut the ball back from the byline and Cesc Fabregas arrived like a steam-train to hammer a shot into Helton's chest.
At the other end, Ricardo Quaresma cut in from the byline and let fly. Lehmann spilled the ball and just managed to recover before the ball crossed the line.
Nothing would be allowed to spoil Arsenal's night.
- Gallas 90
- Hleb 84 Goal!
- Rosicky Yellow Card
- Silva Yellow Card
- Henry Goal!
- Persie 73
- Ljungberg 73
- Walcott 84
- Song 90
- Anderson 65
- Postiga 46
- Meireles 46
- Adriano 65