From celebrated record-breaker to being branded a 'cheat' by the opposition in the space of one afternoon, Thierry Henry experienced the full gamut of emotions as Arsenal overcame Stuart Pearce's rejuvenated Manchester City. The striker and captain was also complicit in a 78th- minute penalty incident which culminated in Robert Pires's bizarre attempt at a spot-kick which was immediately nominated for the worst in the history of the game.
Most departed here yesterday utterly bemused. It was one for the anoraks and their obsession with the laws of the game. It all revolved around the Gunners' second penalty 22 minutes from time " Pires having converted the first " when Dennis Bergkamp was felled by Joey Barton.
Pires deliberated with Henry before starting his run-up. He stopped over the ball and then what happened next will go down in football folklore. Was he trying to confuse goalkeeper David James? Was he attempting some kind of weird and wonderful pass to Henry? Whatever, he succeeded only in stumbling over the ball, just catching it with his studs. As City's Danny Mills hacked the ball away, referee Mike Riley awarded a free-kick to the visitors because Pires had touched the ball twice.
And all this on Wenger Day, the manager's 56th birthday, when his most welcome gift would have been the signature of Henry on an extended contract. That was not to be, and won't be until next summer. Yet, there was no doubting the influence Henry continues to have on this club.
There was much ceremony beforehand, with Ian Wright, the former holder of Arsenal's all-time goalscoring record, presenting a silver cannon to Henry in celebration of the Frenchman equalling and then passing that total of 185 against Sparta Prague on Tuesday. As may have been expected, it was Wright who played to the gallery; Henry accepted the honour with humility, bowing his head to the former England man before the pair embraced.
Henry was involved in the home side's best early opening, sliding the ball back from the byline after being released by Lauren, only for Pires to sky the ball, inexcusably, over the bar. That right flank always looked the most fruitful source of Arsenal's openings and, before half- time, Henry's spectacular overhead kick from the byline failed to find a team-mate, while Lauren fashioned another opportunity for Bergkamp which the Dutchman failed to control. …