Arsenal 5-0 Leeds United
April 16, 2004
Premier League, Highbury
Scorers Pires 6, Henry 27, 33 (pen), 50, 67.
By Richard Clarke
It was night when Arsenal were awesome and Thierry Henry was 'foursome' as the French striker struck a breathtaking quartet of goals in this utterly comprehensive 5-0 victory over Leeds at Highbury.
Robert Pires got the first in the sixth minute but after that it was all Henry. He galloped through the Leeds defence and slotted home three times and, in between, clipped home one cheeky penalty.
The feat took him to 150 goals in 251 appearances since he joined the Club in August 1999. He is now the third highest scorer in Arsenal's history after surpassing John Radford's figure of 149.
On this form he is an Arsenal legend in the making. That is if he is not there already.
The papers will have Henry headlines tomorrow but, in reality, this was a real team performance. Arsenal have now gone 33 games unbeaten in the Premiership this season and this was probably their most complete display.
They took every major opportunity that came their way and gave Leeds nothing close to a clear-cut chance at the other end.
Arsenal's lead at the top of the Premiership is now 10 points and there are five games left. Arsène Wenger will surely say once more that "it's not done yet" and of course he is right. But if his side can produce 50 per cent of this performance for the remaining 450 minutes of this season then it will be.
The major news before kick-off was the return of Ray Parlour. The 31-year-old midfielder had been out with a knee injury since the FA Cup fifth round tie with Chelsea on February 15.
Ashley Cole had hurt his ankle at St James' Park on Easter Sunday so Gael Clichy deputised at left back. The other changes - Pires for Edu, Dennis Bergkamp for Jose Antonio Reyes - smacked of rotation as both omitted players were named on the bench.
Of course, Leeds had an Arsenal player in their line-up. Jermaine Pennant has spent most of the season at Elland Road and has been excelling in their fight against relegation.
Today had seen the start of the English county cricket championship and, as if in celebration, North London had been bathed in summer sunshine. By kick-off at 8pm it was, of course, cooler but there was actually a bit of a nip in the air.
Arsenal began with a swagger. Clichy charged down Gary Kelly's clearance and the ball fell nicely for Pires to whip a cross into the box. Wiltord met it at the near post but his flick flashed across the face of goal.
No matter, in the sixth minute Arsenal were ahead. Bergkamp put Pires clear and the midfielder took the ball in his stride, opened his body in order to bend a beautiful, pacy shot around the desperate dive of Leeds keeper Paul Robinson and high into the corner of the net. It was typical of the Dutchman's perception and, given it was his 18th goal of the season, increasingly typical of the Frenchman's finishing.
It was also the perfect to tonic for any pre-games nerves. Arsenal went into this game with a healthy seven-point lead into the Premiership. But Leeds had won at Highbury in similar circumstances almost a year ago.
They showed similar endeavour after Arsenal's opener by forcing a succession of corners. However the only nervous moment was when young Clichy hacked a clearance over his bar. Despite leading, it was obvious the home team would have to roll up their sleeves tonight.
In the 27th minute, Gilberto slid a pass forward for Henry to race clear. The Leeds defence seemed to expecting the assistant referee's flag to be raised but that did not happen. Henry's 35th goal of the season duly followed after the Frenchman tucked his shot under Robinson.
No 36 was not far behind. In the 33rd minute, Bergkamp exchanged passes with Wiltord on the edge of the area and the Dutchman's flick was handled by Michael Duberry. Referee Dermot Gallagher pointed to the spot and Henry cheekily clipped his spot-kick over Robinson.
Vieira thumped a header past the post seven minutes before the break as Arsenal threatened once more.
Arsenal were already starting to play possession football as the minutes ticked away to half time.
Five minutes after the break, any semblance of a comeback was wiped out. Wiltord prodded the ball to Henry, who again raced clear and guided a shot past Robinson.
It was Henry's hat-trick, his 28th in the Premiership and his 149th for the club. It equalled Radford's tally.
Of course the Frenchman had hit three in the last game at home, against Liverpool on Good Friday. Tonight's achievement was the first back-to-back Highbury hat-trick since Doug Lishman did the same thing in November 1951.
However Henry was to go one better in the 67th minute. Pires flicked the ball into his path just outside the centre circle and he used all his pace to sprint between two defenders before planting home his fourth. It was also the first time an Arsenal player done that since Ian Wright against Everton on December 21, 1991.
Make no mistake, Arsenal fans are watching historic football at the moment from a player who has few equals, let alone anyone better, throughout the globe.
It was just a privilege to be here to see him play.
Wiltord should have scored soon afterwards and Bergkamp tried to drift a chip over Robinson. It was one of the few opportunities that did not go in tonight.
Towards the end, Henry even slid a shot wide of the post.
It proved he was human after all but, frankly, you would never believe it on tonight's performance.
Arsenal Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Clichy, Wiltord, Gilberto (Edu 69), Vieira, Pires (Parlour 73), Bergkamp (Reyes 73), Henry. Subs not used Keown, Stack.
Leeds United Robinson, Kelly, Duberry, Caldwell, Harte, Pennant, Radebe (Barmby 72), Matteo, Milner, Smith, Viduka (Simon Johnson 84). Subs not used Lennon, Kilgallon, Carson.
Referee D Gallagher.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 7 Jan 2011