English Premiership

Henry steers Arsenal home

2012-02-11 19:14
Thierry Henry (File)

Sunderland - Thierry Henry brought the curtain down on his glittering Premier League career in perfect fashion with a stoppage-time winner to earn Arsenal a precious 2-1 victory at Sunderland on Saturday.

French striker Henry, on loan from the New York Red Bulls, pounced on an Andrey Arshavin cross to poke home from close range as the Gunners moved above Chelsea into fourth place in the Premier League.

Aaron Ramsey had equalised for Arsenal with his first touch after coming off the bench to cancel out James McClean's opener in a frenetic finish.

Ramsey was on for Per Mertesacker, who rounded off a game to forget by going down with an Achilles problem to hand the ball on a plate to McClean.

The midfielder made up for the disappointment of his omission from Giovanni Trapattoni's latest Republic of Ireland squad by finding the bottom corner with a calm angled drive.

The lead lasted five minutes as Ramsey equalised after good build-up play by Robin van Persie, finding the net from 18 yards off both posts to peg the Wearsiders back.

Henry has lit up many a contest down the years with his dazzling skills and a goal-poaching talent that leaves him third on the all-time list of Premier League scorers behind only Alan Shearer and Andy Cole after extending his tally to 176.

Having come off the bench just after the hour to make his 258th and - barring an unlikely second return to these shores - final league appearance here, Henry went out on an undoubted high with a seventh goal in 11 games against the Black Cats.

The 34-year-old has one last chance to say his farewells in the mid-week Champions League quarter-final trip to AC Milan before his short-term loan spell comes to an end.

Sunderland pushed Arsene Wenger's men all the way before falling to their first home defeat for three months.

The late drama was in stark contrast to a dire first half, where both sides had penalty shouts turned down.

Van Persie saw his appeal waved away as he tangled with Michael Turner, while at the other end, Mertesacker escaped with an apparent handball after miscontrolling a Jack Colback cross in the box.

Theo Walcott wasted the clearest opening, firing across the face of goal after being released by a smart slide-rule pass by van Persie.

Sunderland replied through McClean, who beat Alex Song in the air to send a glancing near-post header just over from a Seb Larsson corner.

John O'Shea fired over from a dozen yards when Craig Gardner's defected free-kick fell invitingly for the defender just after the break.

And there was another escape for the Gunners just after the hour when Wojciech Szczesny saved low to his right as Gardner fired in a left-foot volley seemingly destined for the bottom corner.

The late flurry of goals left Sunderland stunned, but they will not have to wait long for a shot at revenge.

The sides do it all again here next week for a place in the last eight of the FA Cup. Everyone, that is, except Henry, who at least ensured he signed off in fitting style.

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