Thierry Henry struck twice in the space of five second-half minutes to complete a superb hat-trick as Arsenal FC came from behind to beat AS Roma 3-1 at the Stadio Olimpico to get off to a perfect start in Group B in their quest for a UEFA Champions League quarter-final place.
Arsenal fell behind after only four minutes to an Antonio Cassano strike, but within 90 seconds Henry had pulled the Premiership leaders level. The Frenchman made sure of the points after the break with a pair of powerful strikes, the second a dipping free-kick over the Roma wall.
Roma flying start
Roma, who had failed to win any of their three home matches in the first group stage, could not have hoped for a better start when Cassano beat Rami Shaaban, playing in place of the injured David Seaman, following the home team's first meaningful attack.
Cassano strikes first
The Italian Under-21 international had been preferred to Vincenzo Montella, and coach Fabio Capello's decision paid immediate dividends as the youngster collected the ball on the edge of the area before shooting low past the Arsenal goalkeeper and in off the post.
Henry hits back
But Roma fans had not finished celebrating when Arsenal hit back. Gilberto's deft pass split the Roma defence and found Henry, who broke into the box on the left before releasing a low side-foot shot beyond the outstretched hand of Francesco Antonioli and in at the far post.
The goal calmed Arsenal nerves and the London side, prompted by Patrick Vieira, grew in confidence. But with Francesco Totti and Cassano proving a constant threat and Cafu at his marauding best down the right, the English side could never relax. Indeed, it took a brilliant goalline clearance from Pascal Cygan to ensure that they went into the break on level terms. Christian Panucci's long ball forward played in Cafu and he crossed for an unmarked Totti who rifled a volley that beat Shaaban but not the French defender on the line.
Arsenal were content to go into the break on level terms, but dictated the pace after the interval. Roma rarely threatened and it was not until the 64th minute that the Arsenal defence was put under any pressure. Totti released substitute Gianni Guigou who tumbled under the challenge of Shaaban, but the goalkeeper touched the ball away from the danger area and Roma's calls for a penalty went unheeded.
Henry seals victory
Six minutes later Henry struck again. Christian Panucci was unable to clear Oleg Luzhny's cross from the right and Henry pounced on the loose ball before firing through the legs of Antonioli from ten metres. The goal came after Roma's best spell of the half and the Serie A side were beaten when Henry stepped up five minutes later to send a free-kick from five metres outside the box beyond the despairing dive of Antonioli to claim his sixth goal of this Champions League campaign. On this form, surely more will follow.
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