Gunners dig in to sink Seasiders

Arsenal survived a second-half onslaught from Blackpool to record a 3-1 win at Bloomfield Road and close the gap at the top to seven points.

Last Updated: 10/04/11 at 16:41 Post Comment

Nasri and Van Persie: Celebrating at Blackpool

Nasri and Van Persie: Celebrating at Blackpool

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The hosts made the brighter start in Sunday's Premier League clash but it was the Gunners who took the lead when Abou Diaby drilled in his first goal since August after 18 minutes.

And Arsene Wenger's side doubled their advantage just three minutes later when Emmanuel Eboue was on target for the first time this season, firing in at the end of a flowing Arsenal move.

The Gunners had several chances to extend their lead before the break, with Samir Nasri's volley hitting the post.

But Blackpool came out for the second half in a determined fashion and they halved the deficit seven minutes after the restart when Gary Taylor-Fletcher followed up to fire home after veteran goalkeeper Jens Lehmann - starting in place of the injured Manuel Almunia - had denied DJ Campbell, who was through on goal.

Just minutes later, Blackpool were denied what appeared a clear-cut penalty when Laurent Koscielny chopped down Taylor-Fletcher in the box but referee Lee Mason waved away their claims.

The Seasiders continued to press but Arsenal wrapped up the victory after 76 minutes when Cesc Fabregas sent Theo Walcott scampering away down the right and his cross was converted by Robin van Persie from close range.

The win consolidates Arsenal's position in second - they are seven points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand - while Blackpool remain 17th, just a point above the relegation zone.

The afternoon started in dramatic fashion as Almunia injured his knee in the warm-up and Gunners manager Arsene Wenger was forced to turn to 41-year-old Lehmann.

It was an unexpected 200th appearance in a Gunners jersey for the German, who was recently coaxed out of retirement to provide emergency cover in the title run-in.

Lehmann had little to do in the first half as Arsenal, with captain Fabregas also back in their starting line-up, overpowered the struggling Tangerines.

Blackpool had an early chance when Ian Evatt headed over from a Charlie Adam corner but after that it appeared Arsenal had no intention of suffering a repeat of their last week's Blackburn stalemate.

Both Andrey Arshavin and van Persie put early shots over before Richard Kingson rushed out to deny Nasri.

It quickly became one-way traffic and the Gunners carved open the Blackpool defence with ease to claim a 17th-minute lead.

Fabregas picked out van Persie with a superb cross-field ball and the Dutchman crossed for Diaby to sidefoot home from close range.

They grabbed a second just three minutes later as Eboue played a neat one-two into the box with Jack Wilshere and then blasted past Kingson.

Blackpool enjoyed a little spell of possession but were unable to test Lehmann, and van Persie had the next chance when he controlled another long Fabregas pass and shot at Kingson.

The Ghanaian keeper needed to be alert again to block an effort by the fleet-footed Nasri after more slick football by the Gunners.

Nasri had another opportunity seconds later when the ball was lobbed back into the box by Fabregas, but his volley hit the bottom of the post.

Van Persie took the ball past the outrushing Kingson to set up Diaby but Stephen Crainey got back to tackle.

Some Blackpool fans thought Adam had pulled one back immediately after the restart but his long-range free-kick had struck the side-netting.

The hosts, however, had realised they had little to lose by taking the game to Arsenal and did reply after 52 minutes.

Luke Varney was fouled but play proceeded and Jason Puncheon played in Campbell.

The striker appeared to be fouled by Lehmann as he closed in on goal but the ball ran on for Taylor-Fletcher to fire home.

Blackpool were inspired and poured forward again.

Manager Ian Holloway was furious his side were denied a penalty when Taylor-Fletcher went down under a Koscielny challenge.

Taylor-Fletcher then headed wide as Blackpool maintained the pressure but van Persie shot across the face of goal at the other end.

Arsenal made the game safe 14 minutes from time as they quickly turned defence into attack.

Campbell shaped to shoot for Blackpool but Sebastien Squillaci won possession and Fabregas released substitute Theo Walcott down the right.

Blackpool struggled to get back and Walcott crossed low into the box and van Persie made no mistake in front of goal.

Blackpool tried to set up a tight finish but Evatt headed at Lehmann and the Gunners eased to the final whistle and three vital points.

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