Arsenal FC put their UEFA Champions League and FA Cup exits behind them as a Thierry Henry hat-trick inspired them to a thrilling 4-2 Premiership win against fourth-placed Liverpool FC.
The last seven days saw Arsenal lose their place in the domestic cup against Manchester United FC and then crash out of Europe with a defeat at home against Chelsea FC. However, victory today puts them seven points clear of second-placed Chelsea with as many games left, and also makes them the first English top-flight club to have a 31-game unbeaten run in a single season, breaking a mark set in 1920/21 by Burnley FC.
The first half went Liverpool's way as they sought three points in their bid to claim England's fourth Champions League berth for next season. Within five minutes they were ahead when defender Sami Hyypiä headed in after Steven Gerrard redirected a Harry Kewell corner.
Although Gilberto and Robert Pires combined to set up Henry for the equaliser just after the half-hour, Michael Owen restored the advantage, running on to a Gerrard through-ball two minutes before the break. But that lead survived for only four second-half minutes, as Henry and Fredrik Ljungberg provided Pires with a scoring opportunity happily converted.
Seconds later Henry, who had passed a late fitness test after being substituted during the defeat against Chelsea with a hamstring and back injury, produced a superb solo run and finish to give Arsenal the lead for the first time in the match. With 12 minutes left, the Frenchman completed his treble after being set up by Dennis Bergkamp.
Chelsea have the chance to close the gap on Saturday when they meet Middlesbrough FC. A day later Arsenal - still yet to lose in the Premiership this season having already passed the previous best start of 29 matches without defeat - visit Newcastle United FC as part of the Premiership's busy Easter programme.
In Friday's late game, Everton FC eased their relegation worries with a 3-1 home win against Tottenham Hotspur FC. David Unsworth, Gary Naysmith and Joseph Yobo gave Everton a three-goal half-time advantage, and although Stephen Carr pulled one back a quarter-hour from the end, he was sent off two minutes later for his second booking. Everton are now nine points clear of the bottom three, above Tottenham on goal difference.
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