Thierry Henry made the perfect return to Arsenal when he emerged as a substitute to score a late winner in the FA Cup third-round tie against Leeds United.
Henry, back in Arsenal colours for the first time since he left for Barcelona in 2007, scored his 227th goal for the club with 12 minutes remaining amid emotional scenes at Emirates Stadium.
The 34-year-old - back at the club where he was recently honoured with a statue - is on a two-month loan from New York Red Bulls. He had been on for only 10 minutes when the magical moment arrived.
WRITTEN IN THE STARS
- With 12 minutes remaining, Henry scores his 12th goal against Leeds in 12 appearances wearing the number 12 shirt in 2012
Henry took a pass from Alex Song in his stride in the area before steering a composed, angled, right-footed finish tantalisingly out of the reach of Leeds United keeper Andy Lonergan.
It finally broke the stubborn resistance of Leeds and was the signal for an outpouring of emotion as Henry pumped his chest in celebration after racing to hug his mentor Arsene Wenger on the touchline.
Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny raced the length of the field to join the celebrations while Henry later indulged in a spot of impromptu cheerleading as he urged the supporters who worship him to even greater backing for Arsenal in the closing stages.
It was the perfectly scripted finale to a contest that needed Henry's Midas touch against a Leeds side who battled in a manner that did manager Simon Grayson and their magnificent travelling support great credit.
At the final whistle, with the first task of his temporary return to the club completed, Henry raised his arms to the heavens before falling into the arms of his Arsenal colleagues and taking the acclaim of an elated crowd.
Henry's presence, even on the bench, enlivened the stadium when he came out to warm up and later when his name was announced to rapturous applause.
And the 45 minutes that followed only increased the appetite and anticipation for his return as Arsenal dominated but failed to breach a resilient and well-organised Leeds defence.
With leading scorer and captain Robin van Persie rested, attacking duties fell to Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh, the pair combining in the opening moments only for the Russian to fire wildly over the top.
Sebastien Squillaci then headed narrowly wide and Aaron Ramsey was unable to navigate a way around Lonergan after he was played into the area by Arshavin.
Leeds United's big chance, in a half they spent mainly on the retreat, came when Luciano Becchio found space in the box but shot wastefully off target.
Arsenal's defensive resources have thinned out in the face of mounting injuries - and they were depleted further before the interval when Francis Coquelin pulled up with a hamstring problem and was replaced by Nico Yennaris.
The momentum remained with Arsenal after the break as Lonergan saved well low to his left from Mikel Arteta after the Spaniard was set up by Chamakh, and Arshavin fired across the face of goal after picking up Zac Thompson's misplaced pass.
Henry's increasingly energetic sprinting along the touchline drew a loud reaction from Arsenal's fans and he was finally introduced with 22 minutes left, replacing Chamakh. Theo Walcott also came on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Henry was given a hero's welcome as he set about the business of attempting to break down a Leeds side proving as stubborn as they had been here at the same stage of the FA Cup last season.
And the moment Arsenal had been waiting for came with 12 minutes left as Henry gathered Song's pass in his stride before sparking scenes of ecstasy on and off the pitch with a perfect finish to set up a fourth-round tie at home against Aston Villa.
Leeds refused to be distracted by the euphoria and almost snatched a replay in the closing stages as Szczesny saved well from substitute Mikael Forssell.
This, however, was Henry's night and Henry's story. Now Arsenal fans will hope he can write fresh chapters before returning to the United States.
- 13 Szczesny
- 06 Koscielny
- 18 Squillaci
- 49 Miquel
- 08 Arteta
- 15 Oxlade-Chamberlain (Walcott - 68' )
- 16 Ramsey
- 17 Song
- 23 Arshavin Booked
- 39 Coquelin (Yennaris - 33' )
- 29 Chamakh (Henry - 68' )
- 59 Damian Martinez
- 14 Walcott
- 30 Benayoun
- 56 Yennaris
- 09 Park Chu-Young
- 12 Henry
- 31 Miyaichi
- 01 Lonergan
- 22 Lees
- 28 White
- 29 Thompson
- 48 O'Dea Booked
- 07 Vayrynen (Brown - 60' )
- 15 Clayton
- 16 Pugh
- 17 Townsend Booked
- 20 Nunez (Forssell - 81' )
- 10 Becchio (McCormack - 74' )
- 24 Taylor
- 04 Bruce
- 19 Parker
- 08 Brown
- 11 Sam
- 18 Forssell
- 44 McCormack
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee ends the match.90:00 +2:50
Foul by Danny Pugh on Alex Song, free kick awarded. Wojciech Szczesny takes the direct free kick.90:00 +2:10
Mikael Forssell produces a left-footed shot from outside the penalty area and misses left.90:00 +1:32
Direct free kick taken by Andy Lonergan.90:00 +1:32 Booking
Booking Andrey Arshavin shown a yellow card.90:00 +1:21
Unfair challenge on Aidan White by Andrey Arshavin results in a free kick.89:45
Mikael Forssell takes a shot. Save made by Wojciech Szczesny.88:26
Effort on goal by Aaron Ramsey from just inside the area clears the crossbar.87:49
Unfair challenge on Ignasi Miquel by Michael Brown results in a free kick. Ignasi Miquel takes the direct free kick.83:06
Mikael Forssell is caught offside. Free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.82:32
Effort from inside the area by Andrey Arshavin misses to the left of the goal.80:55 Substitution
Substitution Ramon Nunez leaves the field to be replaced by Mikael Forssell.80:23
Ross McCormack takes a shot. Wojciech Szczesny makes a comfortable save.78:45
Michael Brown takes a shot. Save by Wojciech Szczesny.77:24
Alex Song provided the assist for the goal.77:24 Goal scored
Goal! - Thierry Henry - Arsenal 1 - 0 Leeds Thierry Henry finds the back of the net with a goal from inside the area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Arsenal 1-0 Leeds.76:43
Outswinging corner taken by Mikel Arteta.76:16
Corner from the left by-line taken by Andrey Arshavin, clearance made by Darren O'Dea.76:00
Danny Pugh takes a shot. Save made by Wojciech Szczesny.73:33 Substitution
Substitution Ross McCormack replaces Luciano Becchio.
Mikel Arteta decides to take a short corner.72:16
Theo Walcott takes a outswinging corner.71:14
Adam Clayton concedes a free kick for a foul on Laurent Koscielny. Free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.69:56
Theo Walcott fouled by Michael Brown, the ref awards a free kick. Mikel Arteta delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from right channel, comfortable save by Andy Lonergan.69:18
Adam Clayton gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Mikel Arteta. Wojciech Szczesny takes the direct free kick.68:41
The official flags Thierry Henry offside. Andy Lonergan takes the free kick.67:28 Substitution
Substitution Marouane Chamakh leaves the field to be replaced by Thierry Henry.67:12 Substitution
Substitution Theo Walcott on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.66:56
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has an effort at goal from just inside the box that misses to the right of the target.63:40 Booking
Booking Andros Townsend is shown a yellow card.62:39
Effort on goal by Nico Yennaris from inside the box misses to the right of the target.62:09
Effort from 18 yards by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Save by Andy Lonergan.61:52
Aaron Ramsey takes a shot. Darren O'Dea gets a block in.59:39 Substitution
Substitution Michael Brown comes on in place of Mika Vayrynen.59:26
Alex Song has shot on goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.58:20
Unfair challenge on Sebastien Squillaci by Aidan White results in a free kick. Sebastien Squillaci restarts play with the free kick.56:58
Mikel Arteta takes the outswinging corner, Andy Lonergan makes a comfortable save.56:28
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain takes a shot. Blocked by Darren O'Dea.54:26
Andrey Arshavin has an effort at goal from close range which goes wide right of the goal.53:35
Mikel Arteta takes a shot. Save by Andy Lonergan.52:57
Corner taken by Mikel Arteta, Andy Lonergan makes a save.52:32
Corner taken by Mikel Arteta from the left by-line, Ignasi Miquel takes a shot. Aidan White gets a block in.52:16
Marouane Chamakh takes a shot. Blocked by Danny Pugh.50:56
Effort on goal by Andrey Arshavin from inside the box misses to the right of the target.50:05
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Adam Clayton from the left by-line to the near post, Marouane Chamakh manages to make a clearance.48:30
Corner from the left by-line taken by Mikel Arteta, save made by Andy Lonergan.45:41
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain produces a left-footed shot from the edge of the area and misses to the left of the goal.45:01
The second half kicks off.45:00 +1:18 Half time
Half Time The first half comes to an end.45:00 +0:25
Corner taken right-footed by Mikel Arteta from the right by-line, Header from close range by Laurent Koscielny misses to the right of the target.45:00 +0:10
Aaron Ramsey takes a shot. Blocked by Aidan White.42:44
Free kick crossed right-footed by Mikel Arteta from right wing, Adam Clayton manages to make a clearance.42:44 Booking
Booking Darren O'Dea is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.42:31
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Marouane Chamakh by Darren O'Dea.41:27
The assistant referee flags for offside against Andrey Arshavin. Andy Lonergan takes the indirect free kick.39:49
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Mikel Arteta from the right by-line.39:03
Free kick awarded for a foul by Mika Vayrynen on Mikel Arteta. Free kick crossed right-footed by Mikel Arteta from right channel.37:17
Mikel Arteta fouled by Adam Clayton, the ref awards a free kick. Sebastien Squillaci takes the free kick.33:04
The offside flag is raised against Luciano Becchio. Free kick taken by Sebastien Squillaci.32:36 Substitution
Substitution Francis Coquelin goes off and Nico Yennaris comes on.26:44
Foul by Alex Song on Mika Vayrynen, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Adam Clayton.25:22
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Aidan White by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Andy Lonergan takes the direct free kick.24:30
Corner taken by Mikel Arteta from the left by-line played to the near post, Adam Clayton manages to make a clearance.23:31
Shot from deep inside the area by Luciano Becchio goes over the bar.22:57
Mikel Arteta concedes a free kick for a foul on Andros Townsend. The free kick is delivered left-footed by Andros Townsend from right wing, clearance by Alex Song.22:16
Effort from the edge of the area by Mikel Arteta goes wide of the right-hand post.21:51
Corner from right by-line taken by Mikel Arteta.21:26
Aaron Ramsey takes a shot. Darren O'Dea gets a block in.17:04
Aaron Ramsey has an effort at goal from just outside the area which goes wide of the left-hand post.14:42
Headed effort from inside the area by Sebastien Squillaci misses to the left of the target.14:04
Unfair challenge on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain by Andros Townsend results in a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Mikel Arteta.9:26
Unfair challenge on Andros Townsend by Francis Coquelin results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Darren O'Dea.4:06
Free kick awarded for a foul by Adam Clayton on Mikel Arteta. Mikel Arteta restarts play with the free kick.3:20
Effort on goal by Andrey Arshavin from just inside the penalty box goes harmlessly over the target.2:54
Unfair challenge on Andros Townsend by Mikel Arteta results in a free kick. Mika Vayrynen takes the free kick.1:03
Shot from just outside the box by Andrey Arshavin goes over the crossbar.0:41
Andrey Arshavin takes a shot. Tom Lees gets a block in.0:00
The match has kicked off.
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