LONDON — Taking in the acclaim of his adoring fans, it was as if Thierry Henry had never been away.
The Frenchman made a triumphant return to Arsenal, scoring with a composed, trademark finish in the 78th minute Monday night to give the Gunners a 1-0 win over Leeds in the third round of the FA Cup.
"The feeling I had when I scored was amazing," the 34-year-old said after his first game for Arsenal in more than 4½ years.
Ten minutes after he replaced Marouane Chamakh, Henry sidefooted home an angled finish into the bottom far corner from about 9 yards. Henry, who starred for Arsenal from 1999-07, extended his club record to 227 goals as he started a two-month loan from Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls.
"It was like a dream," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "It was a story you would tell young kids if you want to tell them a story about football. Sometimes it happens."
The celebrations were deafening, as if Arsenal had just won the cup. The Gunners host Aston Villa in the fourth round as they look to win the competition for an 11th time and end a seven-year trophy drought.
Running around the perimeter of the field past delirious supporters, Henry hugged Wenger, his longtime mentor, near the dugout. His teammates soon smothered him. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny raced the length of the field to join the celebration.
A grinning David Beckham, watching from a luxury suite with two of his kids, was brought to his feet as Henry slapped his chest close to the Arsenal emblem on his jersey.
"Thierry Henry pureclass" tweeted Irish golfer Rory McIlroy, the U.S. Open champion.
It just needed him to slide on his knees, mimicking the bronze statue unveiled outside Emirates Stadium last month.
"He was already a legend here, and he has added a bit more to his story," Wenger said.
Henry had seen little of the ball before he scored on Alex Song's through ball.
"I knew it hahah! Henry take a bow, how many times have we seen that finish???" tweeted American midfielder Stuart Holden of Bolton.
"When he got in this position, I thought, 'That's your angle,'" Wenger said. "He doesn't force the shot and still made it look easy. That was the Thierry Henry finish."