Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Arshavin goal sees Arsenal beat battling Blackburn

Blackburn 1 Arsenal 2: Theo Walcott struck another timely reminder to watching England boss Fabio Capello that he was wrong to drop him from his World Cup squad as Arsenal edged to victory at Ewood Park.

Walcott, recalled by Capello this week for the forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers, fired a stunning 19th minute opener as the Gunners worked hard for the points.

Walcott was sent scampering clear down the right flank by a fine ball from Robin van Persie before cutting inside and ramming a low shot past Paul Robinson.



Rovers made life hard for Arsene Wenger's men and Mame Diouf's 26th minute equaliser was the least they deserved before Andrey Arshavin won it for the visitors in the 51st minute.



Wenger never relishes his trips to Ewood Park and the driving east Lancashire rain approaching kick-off time threatened to make his latest return an unwelcome one.



Rovers started positively, with Morten Gamst Pedersen's long throw causing Manuel Almunia to enter the action early to pluck the ball off the head of Christopher Samba.



The Gunners came close to an opener 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 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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