Tue, May 09, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Henry rallies the Gunners at Highbury

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL Arsenal secured fourth place in the English Premier League standings after Thierry Henry scored three times to lead the Gunners past Wigan 4-2

AP , LONDONAP, GLASGOWAP, MADRID

Thierry Henry scored a hat trick for Arsenal in the team's final match at Highbury, beating Wigan 4-2 Sunday to capture fourth place in the English Premier League.

The victory meant that the Gunners moved ahead of north London neighbor Tottenham, ending the team's hopes of debut spot in the Champions League next season. Tottenham lost 2-1 at West Ham on the final day of the season.

In the final game at Highbury after 93 years at the famous stadium, Wigan threatened to spoil the party by going up 2-1 thanks to strikes by Paul Scharner and David Thompson.

But Henry then scored three in a row and, after his penalty 14 minutes from the end to make it 4-2, got down on his hands and knees and kissed the Highbury turf.

"Yes, I kissed goodbye to the stadium," said the France striker, who has scored 114 goals in 125 appearances at Highbury. "People were writing us off. We are fourth and we're going to play in the Champions League so that is clear."

Arsenal moves to the new 60,000-capacity Emirates Stadium next season and Sunday's victory and performance are an ideal buildup as it prepares for a Champions League final against FC Barcelona on May 17.

Manchester United finished second in the league behind Chelsea after outplaying Charlton 4-0 at Old Trafford despite the absence of Ruud van Nistelrooy, who left the stadium before kickoff reportedly after hearing he had been left off the starting lineup again.

Louis Saha, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jason Euell's own-goal meant the game was virtually all over by the 35th minute. Kieron Richardson then added a fourth in the 58th minute against a Charlton team which had Alan Curbishley in charge for the last of 729 games. The Addicks manager has decided to step down after 14 seasons at the club.

Van Nistelrooy's absence cast a cloud over the Manchester United performance, however.

"There have been a couple of issues during the week that concerned us in terms of the spirit of the club," Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said. "On such an important day, I just felt that Ruud should be left out. That's all we need to say at the moment. We will be discussing it with club directors tomorrow and Tuesday."

Liverpool, which beat Portsmouth 3-1, finished in third place after winning its 11th in a row to tie a club record. Robbie Fowler, who has signed a new contract to stay with the club next season, hit the target along with Peter Crouch and Djibril Cisse.

Chelsea ended its season with a 1-0 loss at Newcastle and was beaten for the second game in a row. Magpies defender Titus Bramble scored the only goal of the game at St. James' Park as Newcastle, still looking for a new manager since firing Graeme Souness on Feb. 2, finished seventh.

Chelsea finished with 91 points, followed by Manchester United with 83 and Liverpool with 82. Arsenal finished with 67 points, two more than Tottenham.

Also Sunday, Aston Villa edged relegated Sunderland 2-1, sixth-place Blackburn beat Manchester City 2-0, Bolton downed Birmingham 1-0, Everton drew 2-2 with relegated West Bromwich Albion and Fulham edged UEFA Cup finalist Middlesbrough 1-0.

Krys Boyd scored both goals and Rangers beat second-place Hearts 2-0 on Sunday to farewell manager Alex McLeish.

Signed from Kilmarnock during the midseason transfer window, Boyd took his tally for the season to a league-high 32. But Rangers couldn't pass Hearts and take second place.

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