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Saturday, 30 November, 2002, 16:52 GMT
Rampant Henry sinks Villa
Thierry Henry celebrates with his Arsenal team-mates
Henry leads the Arsenal celebrations
Arsenal 3-1 Aston Villa

Thierry Henry completed a dream week with two more goals as Arsenal moved four points clear at the Premiership summit.

Henry followed up his midweek hat-trick against Roma with two second-half strikes to add to an early opener from Robert Pires.

The Gunners were forced to weather a late storm after Thomas Hitzlsperger smashed home for Villa.

  Match facts
17 mins: Bergkamp sets up Pires opener
34 mins: Toure's 'goal' is offside
49 mins: Henry curls in a free-kick
64 mins: Hitzlsperger hammers home
82 mins: Henry scores from the spot

But a Henry penalty eight minutes from time put the pressure firmly on title rivals Liverpool and Manchester United.

Arsene Wenger rested Freddie Ljungberg and Sylvain Wiltord after their Champions League exertions in Rome, and Ashley Cole missed out with an ankle injury.

But the trio's absence made little impact.

It took Pires just 17 minutes to mark his first Premiership start since March with a goal, running on to Dennis Bergkamp's defence-splitting pass and firing through Peter Enckelman's legs.

Kolo Toure looked to have doubled the lead on 34 minutes with a tap-in after Henry's shot bounced back off the post, but his effort was ruled offside.

Despite having scored just once on their travels this season, Villa still posed a threat.


Thierry should certainly be footballer of the year in this country. European footballer of the year? I'd say he's in contention certainly
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on Henry

Darius Vassell tested keeper Rami Shabaan with an early shot and Oyvind Leonhardsen headed Olof Mellberg's cross over the bar.

Dion Dublin saw an effort trickle just past the post after Hitzlsperger's cross caused panic in the Arsenal area.

Villa boss Graham Taylor replaced Lee Hendrie with Ulises de la Cruz at half-time, switching to a 3-5-2 formation.

But the visitors paid dearly for giving away a free-kick in the danger zone just four minutes after the restart.

Henry stepped up from the same sort of range he had scored from in Rome, and again curled the ball into the top corner.


The penalty killed off the possibility of us coming back to get a draw
Villa manager Graham Taylor

But Villa refused to give up, and Hitzlperger set up a nervy final 26 minutes with a superb rising drive from 25 yards.

De La Cruz fired straight at Shabaan as Arsenal began to stutter.

But Henry sealed the win after Steve Staunton brought down substitute Ljungberg in the area, coolly chipping the ball over Enckelman for his fifth goal of the week.


Arsenal: Shaaban, Luzhny, Campbell, Cygan, van Bronckhorst, Toure (Keown 67), Vieira, Silva, Pires (Ljungberg 77), Bergkamp (Wiltord 71), Henry. Subs Not Used: Jeffers, Taylor.

Booked: Luzhny, Henry.

Aston Villa: Enckelman, Mellberg, Johnsen, Staunton, Samuel, Leonhardsen, Taylor, Hendrie (De la Cruz 45), Hitzlsperger, Dublin, Vassell. Subs Not Used: Angel, Postma, Allback, Kinsella.

Booked: Hitzlsperger, Taylor, Dublin.

Attendance: 38,090

Referee: G Barber (Hertfordshire).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's John Murray
"In this form Henry can do what he likes"
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"There's a great confidence on the pitch"
Arsenal's Dennis Bergkamp
"For us it's important to stay on top"
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