Arsenal 3 Blackburn Rovers 0: Henry adds to his record collection

Arsenal's inspiration strikes his 100th home League goal to see off combative Blackburn
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The Independent Online

Achievements continue to tumble at those special feet of Thierry Henry as quickly as despairing opponents. On Tuesday the Sublime One broke Arsenal's European appearance record, yesterday he scored his 100th League goal at Highbury. It also helped confirm a 13th successive Premiership home victory for his side and, coming just before half-time, extinguished the flickering chances of a Blackburn Rovers who bristled with a determination to attack.

Henry - already Arsenal's record goalscorer - now needs another five to beat Cliff Bastin's League record for the club of 150 goals and given the Frenchman is currently achieving a strike a game he may get there at New Year. "It's his garden and he feels completely at ease," Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said of Henry's feeling for Highbury. Yesterday everything was certainly coming up roses.

This victory, aided by Robert Pires's positivity, also fuelled the belief growing at Arsenal that they may be building the momentum to challenge Chelsea's supremacy. "We are getting slowly back on a consistent run," Wenger said.

It was also capped by a quite brilliant strike from the precocious Robin van Persie. "He is like a cobra," was Wenger's assessment. "You feel he can finish and score goals."

This was Arsenal at their creative best even if their defensive frailties were all too apparent and exposed by the hard-running of Craig Bellamy who, despite the score, was probably the most impressive performer. In midfield Arsenal lacked dominance and "fluency" with the Blackburn manager Mark Hughes spot on in highlighting the "excellence" of Arsenal's finishing as the difference.

Ah those goals, those wonderful, wonderful goals. The first was comparatively routine. It came after three minutes with the ball breaking to Cesc Fabregas, from Andy Todd's tackle on Jose Antonio Reyes. The Spaniard steadied himself and curled his shot calmly beyond Brad Friedel, who was slow to react from 25 yards.

The second followed Pires's burst forward, sending a finely measured pass skidding across the turf inside Lucas Neill and with such an ideal weight that Henry did not break stride before striking, around the goalkeeper with unerring precision. "We were getting ready to beat the drum," said Hughes. "And the second goal hurt us."

That was in the last minute of the first half. In the final minute of the game, Van Persie cut in from the touchline, evaded two challenges, including the heavy boot of Robbie Savage, stayed on his feet, and struck a vicious left-footed shot from an angle which slammed off the far post and into the net. The enraptured crowd erupted for the 22-year-old who had been left out by Wenger who revealed that he was "scared" that the player - carrying a slight hamstring injury - would get injured. "It was a fantastic goal," he concurred after admitting his first thought was that Van Persie should have passed. "But," he said, "it is the quality that makes us wrong."

Not that Arsenal were unchallenged. An angled shot from Morten Gamst Pedersen, following Shefki Kuqi's chest down, was blocked by Kolo Touré, whose defensive partner, Sol Campbell, was there to turn away the Norwegian's follow-up. Bellamy was even more unfortunate when he created the room to force Jens Lehmann into a save - and then saw Touré head away as his shot was returned to him.

Twice the ball was diverted from Dennis Bergkamp, as he set himself to tap in, before Friedel beat away Gilberto Silva's fierce drive. The tempo dipped after the break but Blackburn stepped it up again with Kuqi beating Lehmann in the air and Fabregas clearing off the line.

Less impressive was Savage's reaction, holding his face as if punched, after Reyes wafted a hand in his direction. Fortunately the Blackburn midfielder's team-mates were more focused and Bellamy came close again when he reached Pedersen's cross only for the ball to brush the outside of the post. Lehmann was sent sprawling by Steven Reid's powerful shot, beat away another from substitute David Thompson and only just pushed out Pedersen's inswinging corner.

At the other end and Henry got his angles wrong as he tried to curl a shot, sending the ball wildly wide. It was a rare indiscretion from the rarest of talents and one quickly forgotten by Van Persie's final flourish.

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