Yes, it was a friendly match between the New York Red Bulls and one of the contenders from the UK’s Premier League, Arsenal. But it really was a commemoration for one of Arsenal’s greatest players a decade ago, now playing for the Red Bulls. Thierry Henry scored an amazing 174 goals for the Gunners when he played for them in the 2000s and, although 36 years old – a veteran by any count – he’s still a force to be reckoned with.
The match didn’t really start ceremoniously. There was a downpour prior to the match that didn’t do anything to make the pitch good for soccer. But that didn’t stop the man of the match, Henry, almost scoring four minutes into the first half, dodging his defender and making Arsenal goalie Wojciech Szczesny work hard to push his shot on goal away from the net.
And it was Henry again who, about 30 minutes into the game, kicked a corner shot across the Arsenal goal for Ibrahim Sekagya to head the ball back into play for Bradley Wright-Phillips to knock in for a first blood.
There was some irony there too. Wright-Phillips’ father, Ian Wright, spent seven years playing for Arsenal from 1991 to 1998. And what years they were. During his time there, Arsenal won the Premier League title, as well as both major domestic titles and the European Cup. Wright also played for England, and scored 387 goals during his career.
No more goals were scored throughout the game, and the Red Bulls were overjoyed to win after a season that has been less than spectacular.
Speaking to the press after the match, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said, “Thierry can be dangerous from anywhere and you can see today why he was a great player because when he played in midfield his passing was excellent and his vision as well. When our opponent is better than us, we have to say, ‘Well done,’ and that was the case today.”