AS Roma 1-3 Arsenal
UEFA Champions League
2nd Stage Group B
November 27, 2003
Scorers: Cassano 4 (AS Roma), Henry 6, 70, 75 (Arsenal)
By Richard Clarke in Rome
We came, we saw and Thierry Henry conquered on a night of high drama here in Rome.
The French striker scored Arsenal's first ever hat-trick in the Champions League as we roared back to claim a superb victory in the Phase Two opener at the Stadio Olimpico.
Arsène Wenger's side were the visitors to the Eternal City but they displayed true gladiatorial spirit with a performance of pace, power and, above all, discipline.
Antonio Cassano put the home side ahead after just four minutes but Henry replied a minute later. He then added two more midway through the second half as we turned on the style.
It was a special performance on a special night and one that has given us the early advantage in Group B.
Before kick-off, Wenger believed David Seaman's slight groin injury left him with a "90 per cent chance of playing" but Oleg Luzhny (hamstring) had only a 20 per cent chance. In fact it was the Ukrainian who took his place at right back with Rami Shaaban deputising between the posts.
Less than four minutes into the game our Swedish stopper was picking the ball out of the back of the net. Cassano played a one-two with Francesco Totti just outside the area, cut inside Sol Campbell and tricked a shot in off the post. The ball seemed to take an agonisingly long time to nestle into the far corner of the net. The Stadio Olimpico erupted.
Our response was immediate. Henry escaped on the left-hand side of the box, steadied himself and planted a low side-footed shot into the far corner of the net. The Stadio Olimpico was stunned.
The game then found its rhythm. Henry and strike partner Sylvain Wiltord were combining well with Patrick Vieira in midfield while Ashley Cole was lending support to the front line at every opportunity.
We might have gone in front in the 22nd minute when Gilberto spotted Freddie Ljungberg on the right flank. The Brazilian raced into the six-yard area and would have tapped in the return pass but for the fingertips of the diving Roma keeper, Francesco Antonioli.
The home side were muted but not without menace. Defender Christian Panucci burst forward, beat Robert Pires and fired in a shot that clipped the heel of Pascal Cygan and could have gone anywhere. Fortunately, it whistled wide and the subsequent corner came to nothing.
Roma conjured up another chance soon afterwards and, frankly, should have regained the lead. Cafu careered to the right-hand byline and sent over a deep cross that cleared Campbell.
Totti had time to chest the ball down and fire in a bullet shot. However, incredibly, Cygan popped up to clear off the line.
To our credit, we settled our nerves and worked ourselves back into the game. Three minutes before the break, Vieira's downward header bounced over the bar following Gilberto's inswinging free-kick.
The start of the second half was much quieter than that of the first. Although the home fans tried to rouse their side with incessant noise, on the pitch Roma were disjointed.
We were better, retaining our shape and breaking with speed. And anyway, as Wenger said before the game, a point was a more than an adequate return from this footballing cauldron.
Early on, Cafu again escaped on the right flank and only Campbell's timely sliding tackle prevented Cassano snaffling a second.
The Roma striker was substituted for Vincenzo Montella on 62 minutes but his last act was to tumble over a tackle from the onrushing Shaaban. The referee waved play on despite howls from the Roman crowd.
However, they were silenced when we took the lead in the 67rd minute. Luzhny whipped a cross into the area from the left, Henry met the ball with a strong header. It hit Panucci and sat up neatly for the Frenchman to thump home from close range.
Roma manager Fabio Capello responded the only way he could by bringing on Gabriel Batistuta. The veteran Argentinian striker ended our Champions League hopes in 1999 when playing for Fiorentina. His first touch set up Cafu but Shaaban repelled his fierce shot.
It proved to be a vital save as, after Wiltord was fouled just outside the area, Henry curled home a sumptuous third straight afterwards.
The goal silenced the Romans once more. It did quite the opposite to the travelling Arsenal support as we held on for a famous victory.
Arsenal Shaaban, Cole, Campbell, Luzhny, Cygan, Ljungberg (Edu 89), Vieira, Gilberto, Wiltord (Keown 84), Henry, Pires (Van Bronckhorst 78). Subs not used Taylor, Jeffers, Stepanovs, Volz.
AS Roma Antonioli, Panucci, Candela, Cafu, Zebina, Samuel, Lima (Batistuta 73), Emerson, Cassano (Montella 64), Delvecchio (Guigou 57), Totti. Subs not used Pelizzoli, Cufre, Bombardini, Guardiola.Copyright 2017 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