Gunners pass test to see off Rovers

Arsenal came through the physical test they expected to beat Blackburn 2-1 at Ewood and make it seven points from nine in the Premier League.

Last Updated: 28/08/10 at 17:57 Post Comment

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Arshavin: Celebrates winning goal

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Blackburn inflicted a crucial blow on Arsenal's title hopes last season with victory at Ewood and the Gunners knew they would have to be at their best to avoid a repeat this time around.

It looked likely in the early stages as Manuel Almunia and his backline struggled to deal with the number of high balls into their box but Theo Walcott settled their nerves with a fine 19th-minute opener to give watching England boss Fabio Capello another timely reminder of his abilities.

It came against the run of play and Mame Diouf's 26th minute equaliser was the least Rovers deserved but Arsenal eventually took a greater control of the game and won it through Andrey Arshavin in the 51st minute.

The driving rain that swept around the ground before kick-off would have pleased Sam Allardyce more than it would have Arsene Wenger and it was no surprise to see the home side start the stronger.

Almunia was called into action almost immediately when Chris Samba flicked on a Morten Gamst Pedersen long throw, and the Gunners stopper did well to claw the ball off the head of Mame Diouf under the bar.

The Gunners came close to an opener themselves in the third minute when Abou Diaby's shot in a crowded box took a heavy deflection off Vince Grella and rather fortuitously struck goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

But Rovers set about peppering the Arsenal box with high balls and their tactic nearly paid off in the ninth minute when Ryan Nelsen's header was headed off the line by Cesc Fabregas.

In a promising opening spell Fabregas then split the Rovers defence with a through-ball towards Walcott, only for Samba to get in with a superb saving challenge.

El-Hadji Diouf failed to pick out namesake Mame in acres of space in a Rovers counter-attack then in the 15th minute Samba headed just over from another Pedersen corner.

Walcott's 19th minute strike - after a fine Robin van Persie ball - was so powerful it required lengthy half-time repairs to the net - but when Arsenal threatened to go on and win at a canter it was the home side who struck back.

Samba set off a swift counter-attack which sent El-Hadji Diouf tearing down the left where he cut inside the hapless Laurent Koscielny and squared for Mame Diouf to sweep home.

Wenger was forced to make his first change in the 34th minute when Van Persie hobbled off with an apparent knee injury and was replaced by Marouane Chamakh.

Confidence continued to bleed back into Blackburn after the break and Pedersen was not too far away with an audacious long-range effort in the 50th minute.

But the Gunners went back ahead one minute later when a Fabregas effort in the box was blocked only to squirt clear to Arshavin, who poked past the advancing Robinson.

Nikola Kalinic blazed a left-foot shot over the bar before Allardyce made his first change introducing Dunn in a bid to add some creativity to his midfield.

However as the game wore on Wenger's men looked increasingly to be finding their rhythm and Nelsen and Samba were working overtime to repel Arshavin and Chamakh.

But it was Walcott who always looked the biggest threat and the young striker came close to a second on 75 minutes when he lofted a long-range effort inches over the bar.

Walcott thought he had knocked home the Gunners' third at the other end only to be deemed inches offside, then substitute Jack Wilshere missed a sitter in injury time.

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2 Man City 1 2 3
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13 C Palace 1 -1 0
14 Man Utd 1 -1 0
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