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Thursday
Nov082012

Henry Humiliates Inter

BY @PapsTheGooner

An early flight from London to Milan meant I and Gooner mates Pete (@Feeter84) and Costas (@costaskontos) were up at a ridiculous hour on the morning of Tuesday 25th November, 2003. Despite the sleep in my eyes I was excited about my first ever trip to Italy; yes the match with Inter was a daunting proposition, but at least we had the Italian cuisine to look forward to.

Arsenal’s Champions League group had so far proved a tough affair. We’d only gained one point in our first three matches and been stuffed at Highbury by an Obafemi Martins’ inspired Inter before an 88th minute winner by Ashley Cole saw us overcome Dynamo Kiev on matchday four. Qualification for the next round was hanging on a knife-edge. Not only were we still bottom of the group we had to travel to the San Siro and WIN to keep hope alive.

Landing in Milan, our first port of call was the hotel to check in and drop off bags before we headed to Piazza del Duomo (cathedral square in Milan) in search of  fellow Gooners. We chatted with a few familiar faces before stumbling across a restaurant which to this day Pete still talks about. If anyone is in Milan, the restaurant was called Cialdi and was near the mentioned square; it was there that I had the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. After a couple of beers we headed back to the square to soak up the atmosphere and sing a few cheeky songs. All in all, it was a friendly affair.

While we were enjoying ourselves Nick Collins, chief football reporter at Sky, picked us out wanting our thoughts on the big clash. I went first and trying to give the objective, but realistic view told him, “It’ll be a tough match but hopefully we can nick a victory in a tight game.” Costas added that he felt, “Kanu will have a big game tonight.” Before Pere had his say, “No problem, four or five nil.” Immediately I regretted being objective and not taking charge of my television debut like Pete!

After a quick power nap in the hotel we made our way to the famous Giuseppe Meazza (San Siro) stadium arriving nice and early to soak up the history of the place. We travelled in hope rather than expectation. I remember it being a really chilly night whilst we posed for photos outside and then once we were inside I recall just thinking, “Wow. This is a proper stadium.”

After a few more photos we perched ourselves in an area behind the goal, where aside from a few steps for those who were tired, everybody was standing. Without Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp we chatted about how tough it was and you could see there weren’t too many confident faces about.  

When the team came out to warm up they were given a rousing reception by us travelling fans. We lined up with Lehmann, Toure, Campbell, Cygan, Cole, Ljungberg, Parlour, Edu, Pires, Kanu and Henry.

CYGAN?!?!?! Looking back, I don’t remember being upset by the side announced. It may have just passed me by in the nervousness. After all, there was no Twitter back then to help me put my thoughts/frustrations down in 140 characters or less.

We kicked off the game defending at the end full of Arsenal fans and I remember being concerned by the state of the pitch which had endured heavy rainfall before the game.

It was a scrappy first half that was flying by when, at the other end of the pitch, we put together a fantastic one touch move between three or four players which was finished delightfully by Henry. The Italians came back strong and with a bit of home tie luck Vieri equalised for the Nerazzurri with a huge deflection which made me really question if it was going to be our night.

Despite being nervous at half-time, we were straight back on the front foot at the start of the second half. Thierry setting up Ljungberg to put us back in the lead. The fans went wild and were in magnificent voice with all the famous chants coming out one after another. I don’t really remember too much more of the half until the last five minutes where suddenly, with the San Siro faithful claiming a penalty at the other end, Thierry broke away towards us.

“Run, run. Keep going! WHY’S HE CUT BACK? YEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS!!!”

Pandemonium!

The travelling Gooners went mental and I was suddenly being hugged, groped and thrown about by everyone. Henry’s stunning strike was matched by his brilliant knee slide celebration where he soaked up the adulation in front of the North London support. Brilliant!

I’d just found my pals after the celebrations when a minute later a magnificent cross field pass was controlled majestically by Thierry, who then passed it across the box. After some bad defending and a bit of luck it fell kindly to Edu who calmly slotted it into the empty net. I grabbed Pete and another manic celebration ensured where we ended up near the rear of the lower tier. As we turned around the ball was suddenly at the feet of Bobby Pires’ six yards out. He tapped home and again we fell about laughing with utter joy. 5-1! 5-1! 5-1! IN THE SAN SIRO! It truly was an unbelievable result – the stuff of dreams.

The police (riot shields and all) locked us in the stadium for 1 hour 45 minutes after the game but their treatment was met with nothing but grins from the travelling Gooners who had just witnessed one of the greatest nights in the club’s history.

The following morning, even though we couldn’t speak Italian, we all bought La Gazzetta dello Sport after spotting the headline: ‘Henry umilia l’Inter’

It’s a souvenir I still cherish to this day. I’ll leave you with a translation of the first paragraph of the aforementioned newspaper talking about Thierry’s exploits.

“Some players, when they have the will, are uncontrollable. Yesterday evening Thierry Henry had all the will in the world. There are players whom when they attack you, there is no escape. Yesterday evening Thierry Henry MASSACRED Inter. They were combusted, opened, torn apart and destroyed. And the law of champions means Inter could have few complaints with the result. Nothing controversial, no sorrow, only applause for Mr Attack.”

Reader Comments (1)

I really enjoyed reading that. I remember this game. gave me goosebumps when I got to the part where Henry smashed in the third and did the knee slide. Great piece.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerry
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