Having been beaten black and blue by the Nerazzuri when they last met, Arsenal struck back here with brutal beauty. It was a victory which resonated like their intoxicating win in Rome last year. In the circumstances, in any circumstances, it was awesome. The punch-drunk look after three games of this group has gone. On the ropes, Arsenal are now trading toe-to-toe and know that if they beat Lokomotiv Moscow in their final group fixture they are through to the knock-out stages instead of suffering an early knock-out. Quite some recovery from this formidably resourceful set of players.
In winning Arsène Wenger's side became the first English team in 42 years to beat Internazionale - twice European champions - in front of their own passionate fans. A flurry of late goals also transformed their goal difference. It was, as ever, Thierry Henry who was the force. He scored the first and third, created the second and spent the final quarter as a lone striker constantly occupying defenders. The Frenchman is a phenomenon.
It had been raining heavily in Milan for five days and, needing a win to stay in the competition, Arsenal took the field savagely depleted. Lauren, Patrick Vieira and Sylvain Wiltord were all injured, the non-flying Dennis Bergkamp absent and Gilberto Silva only fit enough for a place on the bench.
Inter's recent 6-0 destruction of Reggina will have deflated Arsenal's morale further and they betrayed their nerves early on, conceding free-kicks around the penalty area. Both were wasted - although with Christian Vieri stationing himself against the vulnerable Pascal Cygan, the threat was constant.
Inter dispensed with their dour Argentinian coach, Hector Cuper, soon after their 3-0 victory at Highbury. His replacement, Alberto Zaccheroni, has used his trademark attacking formation of 3-4-3 to great effect. However, here it appeared lop-sided and Arsenal's confidence grew. On 25 minutes it soared. Thierry Henry picked his way forward and attempted to exchange passes with Ashley Cole. The ball broke back to him on the edge of the area and he calmly shot low into the corner of the net.
Once again Arsenal had depended upon Henry, once again he had provided. But, unfortunately, Inter enjoy their own talisman. Just as Edu and Ray Parlour appeared to be achieving a degree of midfield control, the Brazilian was lax in his passing. Christian Zanetti intervened and found Vieri, who was allowed dangerous space. His shot clipped Sol Campbell as he challenged and looped over Jens Lehmann and in off the bar.
Arsenal were nevertheless claiming the bulk of the possession and three minutes into the second-half Cygan stole the ball in the Inter half and ferried it quickly to Henry. With Kanu poorly placed, the Frenchman cleverly held on until Fredrik Ljungberg joined the attack. Fortunately, he was unaccompanied by any marker and, as Henry crossed from the left, the Swede had picked his moment well and scored from six yards.
Inter were so flustered they waited for the offside flag. Rightly it didn't come. Arsenal were enlivened and almost immediately extended that lead. Henry, threatening to go clear, was only just thwarted. The goal allowed them to play to their forte, on the counter. Inter pressed and mild alarm followed a series of corners but Vieri was being slowly starved of opportunities.
Inter tried to press but to no avail. Three times Henry broke away and on the third he accelerated, then checked, then accelerated again before rolling the ball beyond Francesco Toldo. Edu then slid home a fourth after panic engulfed the home defence and, after the ball broke kindly to him as he burst across the area, Robert Pires claimed a fifth. It was heady stuff and Arsenal appear set to head on in Europe.
Internazionale (3-4-3): Toldo; Cordoba, Materazzi, Cannavaro (Pasquale, 59); J Zanetti, C Zanetti, Lamouchi (Almeyda, 57), Brechet; Van der Meyde (Cruz, 69), Vieri, Martins. Substitutes not used: Fontana (gk), Luciano, Adani, Kily Gonzalez.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Touré, Cygan, Campbell, Cole; Ljungberg, Edu, Parlour, Pires; Kanu (Gilberto, 73), Henry (Aliadière, 88). Substitutes not used: Stack (gk), Keown, Clichy, Papadopulos, Hoyte.
Referee: W Stark (Germany).
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