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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February, 2005, 21:53 GMT
Arsenal 5-1 Crystal Palace
Thierry Henry (left) celebrates his first-half goal against Crystal Palace
Three goals in seven first-half minutes helped keep Arsenal's title challenge alive as they thrashed Crystal Palace.

The Eagles began well, Dougie Freedman and Andrew Johnson both going close.

But Dennis Bergkamp slotted in from close range, Jose Reyes crashed in a 20-yard bullet and Thierry Henry bagged a supreme solo strike before the break.

Patrick Vieira rounded Gabor Kiraly for the fourth, but Johnson pulled one back from the penalty spot before Bergkamp set up Henry for another fine finish.

For the first time in their history Arsenal fielded a 16-man squad that contained no British players, with regulars Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole out through injury and illness.

And in truth Arsene Wenger's multi-national side made a shaky start, Freedman and Johnson forcing fine saves from Jens Lehmann, before the German keeper nearly cost his side with another howler.

Playing just his second Premiership game since November, the 35-year-old completely mis-kicked a back-pass and had to sprint back to his line to prevent the ball going in.

Palace were playing with the spirit and endeavour that has become the trademark of Iain Dowie's side, and Johnson could again have given them a deserved lead, his looping header saved at full stretch by Lehmann.

Arsenal were subdued, with Vieira constantly gifting away possession, but Henry nearly fashioned a goal out of nothing with a sizzling flick up and half volley that fizzed past the post from 20 yards.

The Eagles were flying high, but three goals in seven minutes soon brought them crashing back down to earth.

Bergkamp broke the deadlock with a neat close-range finish from Reyes' left-wing cross before the Spaniard doubled the lead, sweetly driving a left-foot shot into the corner of Kiraly's net from the edge of the box.

Henry had saved the best until the end of the half, playing a one-two from a corner on the left, cutting inside and unleashing a stunning shot past Kiraly for the third on his 200th Premiership appearance.

With the game dead and buried Arsenal could spray the ball around, and nine minutes after the break they got a fourth when Henry slipped in Vieira to nonchalantly round Kiraly and walk the ball in.

Under the watchful gaze of England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, Johnson was being largely consigned to the role of spectator, but he did reduce the deficit with a penalty after Vieira had brought him down in the box.

But Bergkamp and Henry were buzzing, and the Dutch master teed up his French colleague on the edge of the area to turn Gonzalo Sorondo and lash the ball past Kiraly.

Arsenal may still be 11 points behind Chelsea, but on this evidence they have not given up on the Premiership crown just yet.


  • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:
    "We have always said the best answer to anything is to produce on the pitch and we did that.

    "Our team play and collective dynamic was fabulous, there's happiness in the team and we are all very ambitious.

    "We want to improve and play better. We want to finish as close as possible to Chelsea, we think the future's bright."

  • Crystal Palace boss Iain Dowie:
    "We got the game plan right for 25 to 30 minutes, but in the end Arsenal were too good for us.

    "Our defending just wasn't good enough - we're disappointed with their first and third goals, although the second was a good strike.

    "We've created great chances throughout the game, but Bergkamp and Henry were too hot for us to handle."


    Arsenal: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Cygan, Clichy, Pires (Fabregas 80), Vieira, Edu (Flamini 61), Reyes, Bergkamp (Van Persie 79), Henry.
    Subs Not Used: Senderos, Almunia.

    Booked: Vieira.

    Goals: Bergkamp 32, Reyes 35, Henry 39, Vieira 54, Henry 77.

    Crystal Palace: Kiraly, Boyce, Hall, Sorondo, Granville, Routledge (Lakis 64), Riihilahti (Leigertwood 31), Hughes, Soares, Johnson, Freedman (Kolkka 64).
    Subs Not Used: Speroni, Borrowdale.

    Booked: Riihilahti, Sorondo.

    Goals: Johnson 63 pen.

    Att: 38,056.

    Ref: R Styles (Hampshire).


  • WATCH AND LISTEN
    Interview: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger


    Interview: Arsenal's Thierry Henry


    Interview: Crystal Palace boss Iain Dowie




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