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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Beaten Henry wins battle of the stars
By John Sinnott
BBC Sport in Paris

The two marksmen shake hands before the match starts
Henry gave a better performance, but Ronaldinho's team won

History will record Barcelona beat Arsenal 2-1 to win the 2006 Champions League final, with Sol Campbell, Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti the game's goalscorers.

There will be no mention of Thierry Henry in the record books. No mention of his remarkable contribution to a remarkable game of football. No mention of how he overshadowed the world's greatest player Ronaldinho.

For 75 minutes Henry's inspired performance ensured Arsenal came mightily close to matching Liverpool's epic triumph over AC Milan in 2005.

In the end, though, the Brazilian with the impudent grin got to hold aloft that famous trophy.

Henry must be sick of the sight of Ronaldinho, who over the last year has pipped him to the three player awards - the Fifa World Player of the Year, European Footballer of the Year and the Fipro Player of the Year.

The Brazilian certainly dazzled, but only sporadically given how often he was on the ball, unlike Henry, who worked wonders with the limited possession Arsenal had - even if he did miss two golden opportunities to score that he would normally have been expected to put away.

Henry walks past the trophy after claiming his runners-up medal
Henry walks past the trophy after claiming his runners-up medal

In its preview for Wednesday's game French sports newspaper L'Equipe had labelled Henry's duel with Ronaldinho as a fight between two kings for a crown.

When the players honours are dished out next December, the Frenchman might feel hard done if he has not deposed Ronaldinho from one if not all three of those player titles.

Henry worked so hard for the team that by the end of the first half it had felt he had successfully accomplished the 12 tasks of Hercules.

His performance in the second half never quite matched his first 45 minutes but he still played an important part, harrying the Barcelona defence and taking up valuable time with some probing runs.

We have come to know Henry as a goalscorer par excellence, but watching the French international at work it was his ability to defend from the front that caught the eye.

He ran, tackled and cajoled his side so much in that first half he almost ran himself to a standstill.

"It is so difficult when you lead the line like that on your own," Brazilian legend Leonardo told BBC Sport. "He played really well, but it was too much for him."

Before the game Henry had portrayed himself as Mr Angry.

With his booking he amply demonstrated his competitive nature, but it was his ability to soothe frayed Arsenal nerves that stood out more.

As Sol Campbell wildly celebrated his goal, Henry was already back in his own half gesticulating to his team-mates to calm down, sending out the message that the job was only half done.

It was Henry that made a point of running over and consoling Jens Lehmann after the German was red-carded for fouling Eto'o.

And it was Henry who calmed down Emmanuel Eboue as he angrily reacted to a decision that had gone against him.

If Henry overshadowed Ronaldinho, the Brazilian still played an important part in Barcelona's victory - it was his sublime pass that freed Eto'o and led to Lehmann's red card.

Ronaldinho's full repertoire was on display in Paris - the feints, the flicks, the wonderful touch as well as his disguised passes.

But his frustration was no better summed up when just past the hour he miskicked an Eto'o pass with the goal at his mercy.

A Ronaldinho miskick - three words you may not see in juxtaposition ever again, so extraordinary a player he is.

But to the despair of Henry, it was the Brazilian who had the last grin.

Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal
17 May 06 |  Europe
Gunners fans drown their sorrows
17 May 06 |  UK News
Champions League final photos
17 May 06 |  Photo Galleries
Experts' views on Arsenal
17 May 06 |  Europe


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