PicturesReactionProgrammeWallpaperPLUS ClassicsPLUS WengerPLUS HighlightsArsenal 3-1 Aston Villa
Barclays Premiership
Arsenal Stadium, Highbury
Saturday, October 16, 2004.
Kick-off 3pmMORE PICTURES
REFEREE
  • Graham Poll (Tring)
ATTENDANCE
  • 38,137

ARSENAL
  • Jens Lehmann
  • Ashley Cole
  • Sol Campbell
  • Kolo Toure
  • Lauren
  • Robert Pires
  • Robin Van Persie 84
  • Francesc Fabregas
  • Patrick Vieira
  • Mathieu Flamini 66
  • Jose Reyes
  • Jermaine Pennant 76
  • Dennis Bergkamp
  • Thierry Henry
SUBS NOT USED
  • Stuart Taylor
  • Pascal Cygan

ASTON VILLA
  • Stefan Postma
  • Mark Delaney
  • Jlloyd Samuel
  • Olof Mellberg
  • Gareth Barry
  • Pete Whittingham 8
  • Lee Hendrie
  • Ulises De la Cruz
  • Gavin McCann
  • Thomas Hitzlsperger
  • Steven Davis 45
  • Darrius Vassell
  • Carlton Cole
  • Juan Pablo Angel 58
SUBS NOT USED
  • Nolberto Solano
  • Wayne Henderson
ARSENAL3Pires 19, 72
Henry 45
ASTON VILLA1Hendrie 3


By Richard Clarke

The theory goes that Arsenal are often tired and susceptible to dropping points after an international break. It is certainly true that, in the past, Arsène Wenger's side have struggled after losing most of the squad to national duty.

But it was not true today. This was Arsenal at their best as they produced a breathtaking 90 minutes that exemplified their spirit, desire and professionalism. 

They had to battle from behind after Lee Hendrie scored from distance in the third minute. But that only came after Sol Campbell had hit the bar in the opening seconds and they continued to attack whether behind or ahead, stinging the hands of overworked Villa keeper Stefan Postma on numerous occasions in the process. 

Robert Pires levelled in the 19th minute from the spot after Thierry Henry had been fouled. The latter then completed the mini-comeback in first-half injury time and Pires stifled any lingering hopes of a Villa comeback with his second 19 minutes from time. 

It sent Arsenal five points clear at the top of the table, at least until Chelsea play Manchester City in a game which was set to kick off soon after this one concluded.

Wenger's side have dropped just two points in their nine Premiership games this season and that famous unbeaten run is up to 49 games. Next week they'll go for the half-century at Old Trafford.

Arsène Wenger was without Edu (fatigue), Gilberto (vertebrae), Freddie Ljungberg (hamstring), Gael Clichy (ankle) and Manuel Almunia (shin) so the 16 he named was pretty much the remainder of his first-team squad. 

Arsenal might have been ahead after 90 seconds. Bergkamp curled in a free-kick from the right and Campbell rose unmarked to power a header against the bar. The ball rebounded high and the centre back was adjudged to have fouled Postma as he try to nod in.

Villa took advantage within seconds. Carlton Cole fled up the left wing and miscued a cross to Hendrie outside the area. The ball was slightly behind the diminutive midfielder but he collected, looked up and sent a superb curling shot past the diving Jens Lehmann and into the far corner of the net. It was a stunning snatch-and-grab effort.

Hendrie sprinted the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the travelling fans. As he did Henry attempted to take a quick restart. The Frenchman was in that sort of up-and-at-'em mood. So, it transpired, were the rest of his team.

They poured forward in response to the goal. In the fourth minute, Reyes miscued his shot but it turned into a pass for Bergkamp who could not direct his header on goal. Then Pires set up Reyes but the Spaniard could not convert.

Villa lost Gareth Barry to injury soon after and his replacement Whittingham nearly made it 2-0. His effort was a mirror-image of Barry's goal but this time it drifted just wide of the right-hand post.

Still, the tide was with Arsenal and they attacked with passion and persistence in equal measure. Bergkamp found space on the left and cross for Vieira on the penalty spot. The captain tried to sweep the ball home but Postma thrust out a leg to turn the ball aside. The Dutch keeper, making a rare start in place of the injured Thomas Sorensen, then kicked away a low shot from Ashley Cole.

Arsenal had done everything but score. In the 19th minute they put that right.

Henry ghosted past Mark Delaney on the left and then was allowed room to sprint into the area after Ulises Da La Cruz slipped on the greasy surface. The Frenchman had reached the byline by the time Delaney caught up. His mistimed challenge was an obvious penalty. Pires obliged from the spot. Remember Henry does not take penalties when he is the player fouled.

The impetus was now with Arsenal but they failed to carve out an obvious opportunity until five minutes before half time. Henry's flick found Bergkamp in space in the edge of the area. Postma blocked his fierce drive. He did the same from Henry seconds later.

The keeper was punching more than he held but, considering how busy he was, Postma was doing a sterling job for the visitors.

He could do nothing when Henry stroked Arsenal ahead in injury time. Reyes's exquisite through ball sent him clear on the corner of the area and the rest was typical Henry. 

It continued to be a game of Postma v the Arsenal attack early in the second half. 

Reyes found a yard of space eight yards but his rising shot was beaten away. The Spaniard then set up Pires but the keeper kicked away his low shot. Then, just before the hour, Henry's drive was 'shinned' aside at the near post.

Arsenal were looking to kill the game. However they failed to find the third and the game drifted into its only stale spell. The home side were happy to keep control while Villa were anxious to keep matters tight before a final push in the closing stages.

Pires' second changed all that 18 minutes from time. Substitute Mathieu Flamini, who had replaced Vieira following a bad challenge from Jlloyd Samuel, carried the ball up the right and crossed low for Henry. He turned the ball on for the unmarked Pires on the far side of the area. He swept the ball into the net with aplomb.

Job done and now, after the little matter of a crucial Champions League tie in midweek, for Manchester United.


   MATCH PICTURES 


Jose Antonio marches through the midfieldHendrie and Cole clashPires slots home our penaltyRobert celebratesThierry sweeps in number twoPires shapes to shootand powers in our third3-1 to the Arsenal!


 2004/05 FIXTURE LIST  

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source Richard Clarke 13 Oct 2004