By Adam Szreter in Milan
An almost incomprehensible result at the San Siro stadium turned UEFA Champions League Group B on its head. Arsenal FC, who might have gone out of the competition had they suffered another failure on Europe's biggest stage, produced one of the most famous results in their illustrious history, with three goals in the last five minutes as their hosts fell apart at the seams.
The architect of the victory was the peerless Thierry Henry. Whereas Obafemi Martins' pace had proved pivotal to Inter's 3-0 victory at Highbury on Matchday 1, this time it was Henry's turbo-charged performance that won the game. He scored two of Arsenal's goals, created two others and made almost every Inter defender suffer.
Today we were the better team in everything we did," said Henry. "But I said the same thing about Inter when they won at Highbury because they played well as a team and showed great commitment. Today it was us who played as a team."
Zaccheroni gives credit
The scoreline was a little flattering for the London side, but there was no doubt they deserved the victory as Inter coach Alberto Zaccheroni generously conceded: "Arsenal were the better side today," he said. "They seemed calmer than us, and we showed a lapse in concentration. Once [Julio] Cruz came on we started to do better, and I thought we might come back, but we gave them too much space."
His opposite number Arsène Wenger saw it as a team performance despite Henry's virtuoso display. "I'm very proud of the players, the spirit they've shown and the quality," he said. "At half-time we might have felt that it was going against us again, so it needed character to go out and be persistent, and slowly we became dangerous and took our chances. Every player played very well but of course in the important moments Thierry can score, but also provide."
This he did, opening his account with a sweetly-struck shot from the edge of the area midway through the first half, and setting up Fredrik Ljungberg for Arsenal's second just after half-time. His break down the left for that goal was repeated three or four times during the second half and on the last of these occasions he added Arsenal's third himself, sprinting from halfway after an Inter attack had broken down. He then found time to lay on the pass for Edu to make it 4-1 while Robert Pires was on hand to round things off a minute from time.
With the teams all so closely bunched in the group, those last two goals could yet be significant if Arsenal and Inter end up level on points after Matchday 6. All four teams can yet qualify but Arsenal, at home to FC Lokomotiv Moskva, will now fancy their chances. Inter meanwhile will not relish a trip to the cold assignment at FC Dynamo Kyiv.
I think until they went 2-1 up it was an open and even match," said Inter captain Javier Zanetti. "Then we tried hard to score the equaliser and left too much space for their counter-attackers. However we still have a chance to qualify and in Kiev it will be like a final to us."
Another Arsenal scorer, Ljungberg, added: "We felt we had underachieved in Europe in the last couple of years. We were upset about this and we wanted to show that we are a top team in Europe. We knew we could prove it only on the pitch. Today we played a great match but we always play well when we have our backs against the wall."
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