Arsenal beats Blackpool 3-1 in Premier League
Arsenal kept the heat on Manchester United in the Premier League title race by winning 3-1 at Blackpool on Sunday.
Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Eboue gave Arsenal a 2-0 lead by halftime and Robin van Persie netted a third in the 76th minute after Gary Taylor-Fletcher pulled had one back for relegation-threatened Blackpool.
Arsenal is seven points behind Manchester United with seven matches remaining, including one in hand over the leaders.
''We worked hard and deserved it,'' Van Persie said. ''I believe we have it in us (to win all our remaining games). There are seven games to play and it us up to us.''
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had been forced to start 41-year-old goalkeeper Jens Lehmann after Manuel Almunia injured his knee in the warmup.
It was an unexpected 200th appearance in an Arsenal jersey for the German, who was recently coaxed out of retirement to provide emergency cover in the title run-in having left the club in 2008.
''Sometimes life is about surprises and you never know what is coming.'' Lehmann said. ''We are back in it and let's see how it goes.''
Lehmann had little to do in the first half as Arsenal, with captain Cesc Fabregas also back in their starting lineup, overpowered the struggling hosts.
Blackpool had an early chance when Ian Evatt headed over, but Arsenal quickly took control. Andrey Arshavin and Van Persie put early shots over before goalkeeper Richard Kingson rushed out to deny Samir Nasri.
The opener came in the 18th minute when Fabregas picked out Van Persie with a crossfield ball and the Netherlands forward crossed for Diaby to sidefoot home from close range.
The second came three minutes later as Eboue played a neat one-two into the box with Jack Wilshere and then blasted past Kingson.
Blackpool hit back seven minutes into the second half. Luke Varney was fouled but play continued and Jason Puncheon played in striker D.J. Campbell.
He appeared to be fouled by Lehmann as he closed in on goal but the ball ran on for Taylor-Fletcher to fire home.
Blackpool manager Ian Holloway was furious his side was denied a penalty when Taylor-Fletcher went down under Laurent Koscielny's challenge.
Arsenal made the game safe by quickly turning defense into attack. Sebastien Squillaci won possession and Fabregas released substitute Theo Walcott down the right flank.
Blackpool struggled to get back and Walcott crossed low into the box for Van Persie to convert.
Blackpool is just a point and a place above the relegation zone.