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Henry cracker helps Arsenal regain top spot
( 2003-10-27 09:21) (Agencies)

A superbly struck free kick by Thierry Henry sent unbeaten Arsenal back to the top of the premier league on Sunday after a 1-1 draw at Charlton Athletic.

The France striker notched his 10th goal in all competitions this season with a 40th-minute equaliser after Paolo Di Canio had fired Charlton ahead from the penalty spot.

Arsenal, who have 24 points, are one point ahead of Chelsea with Manchester United, surprisingly beaten 3-1 at home by Fulham on Saturday, in third place on 22.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was happy to take home a point after conceding his side had not hit top gear at The Valley, where they had enjoyed 3-0 wins in the last two seasons.

"It was a difficult game. Charlton played very tight. They worked very hard and are a tough team to beat," Wenger told Sky Sports television.

"The penalty had one merit. It woke us up and we upped the pace and we had a good period in the final 20 minutes of the first half. But we did not find our second gear to put them under pressure again. We did not create many chances.

"I feel we had great spirit and the players are disappointed that we did not win today."

Arsenal, looking to bounce back after Tuesday's 2-1 Champions League defeat at Dynamo Kiev, made two changes from the side beaten in Ukraine with Fredrik Ljungberg and Dennis Bergkamp starting in place of Edu and Sylvain Wiltord.

Both sides spurned half-chances in a bright opening but it was Charlton, with three successive league wins behind them, who went ahead on 27 minutes.


Arsenal defender Lauren was, somewhat harshly, penalised for tripping Matt Holland and Di Canio cheekily chipped home the penalty after Jens Lehmann had committed by diving to his left.

It was the Italian striker's first league goal for Charlton since joining on a one-year-deal in August but it was his only meaningful contribution and he was substituted just before the break after picking up a slight knock.

Henry went close to an equaliser when he cut in from the right and unleashed a curling left-foot strike that beat goalkeeper Dean Kiely but crashed against the left upright.

The Frenchman made no mistake six minutes before the break, though, when Scott Parker fouled Ray Parlour five metres outside the penalty area. Henry curled the free kick around the wall and into the top right-hand corner of Kiely's goal.

Neither side could gain the upper hand in the second half. Bergkamp sent an effort wide and Henry was just off target with another long-range strike.

Charlton defender Hermann Hreidarsson was closest to a winner, though, his header into the ground on 68 minutes bouncing up and forcing Lehmann into a fine save.

In Sunday's other premier league match Tottenham Hotspur drew 0-0 at home to Middlesbrough in a drab encounter at White Hart Lane, stretching their unbeaten run to five games under caretaker manager David Pleat.

Goal-shy Middlesbrough, who have scored just seven goals in 10 league games this season, carved out the better chances, with Spurs' goalkeeper Kasey Keller making fine saves in the second half to deny Boudewijn Zenden and Gaizka Mendieta.

Spurs stay in 12th place while a point lifted Middlesbrough up to 17th from second bottom, level on eight points with Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Leeds United.

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