| Barcelona’s Ronaldinho in a tussle for the ball with Colsa Gonzalo of Mallorca in Primera Liga match in Mallorca on Monday. (AFP)
London: A wonderful free-kick from Thierry Henry gave Arsenal a 1-1 draw at Charlton on Sunday to send his team back to the top of the English Premiership just 24 hours after relinquishing pole position to Chelsea who beat Manchester City 1-0 (as reported briefly in Monday’s Late City edition).
The Gunners moved one point ahead of Chelsea after ten matches following Henry’s brilliant free-kick which pulled the scores level after Charlton’s opener through Paolo di Canio from the penalty spot. United are in third spot, two points behind Arsenal.
Charlton went ahead on 28 minutes after a penalty decision hotly-contested by Lauren, who was adjudged to have fouled Matt Holland. Lauren got a yellow card for dissent but Italian Di Canio made no mistake with a coolly-taken chip past Jens Lehmann. But Henry’s accurate, curved 20-yard free-kick was enough to secure a point.
In Spain, Barcelona beat Real Mallorca 3-1 to claim their first Primera Liga win in five attempts, while Real Sociedad got back on track with a valuable 1-0 win at home to Osasuna.
Barca, under pressure after a run of two draws and two defeats, took the lead away to Mallorca with a Javier Saviola strike that just crossed the line after nine minutes. Ronaldinho fired in a free-kick after 23 minutes and Philip Cocu headed in the third early in the second half.
Mallorca improved in the final half-hour and pulled one back four minutes from time through Fernando Correa but the result was never in doubt, even after Barcelona had midfielder Gabri sent off in the first minute of injury time.
Barcelona’s third victory of the league gave them 12 points from eight games and took them up to seventh, behind Real Sociedad on goal difference. Sociedad, runners-up last season, were grateful to a Darko Kovacevic header for their victory over Osasuna, a first Primera Liga win since September 20.
Deportivo Coruna are leading with 21 points, followed by Real and Valencia on 19 and Osasuna on 14. Real Betis improved to fifth with 13 points after a 3-2 win at home to Albacete.
Barcelona needed a good performance after dispiriting defeats at home to Valencia and Deportivo Coruna and recent speculation about Patrick Kluivert’s future at the club.
Coach Frank Rijkaard opted to play Saviola up front in place of the Dutch international forward and he was rewarded with a first goal from the Argentine after nine minutes, when he got just enough contact on the ball to beat Leo Franco.
Barca pulled further clear with a spectacular free-kick from Ronaldinho midway through the first half and Ricardo Quaresma and Luis Garcia both missed excellent chances to score further goals. The third did arrive six minutes after the break when Thiago Motta advanced down the left and crossed for Cocu to head in at the near post.
There was no time for Mallorca to stage a rescue mission, though, and Barca held on for a win that should give Rijkaard and his team some breathing space.
In Italy, AC Milan and Juventus opened up a four-point gap at the top of Serie A with comfortable wins over Brescia and Sampdoria, while challengers AS Roma were held to a goalless draw at Inter Milan.
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saved an early Roberto Baggio penalty but midfielder Pavel Nedved and striker David Trezeguet struck for the Italian champions before half-time in Turin to guide them to a 2-0 win.
Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko’s seventh and eighth goals of the season helped Milan wrap up a 3-0 win at Sampdoria after his Danish strike partner Jon Dahl Tomasson had given them the lead just before the interval.
AC Milan and Juventus have 19 points, while Roma follow them on 15 points.