Rampant Gunners rip Rovers apart

BY foxsports • March 16, 2009

Andrey Arshavin opened his Arsenal account as an attacking masterclass saw the Gunners to a handsome 4-0 win over Blackburn at the Emirates. Theo Walcott, restored to the starting XI following a cameo against Roma in midweek, was in electric form but the headlines will go to the £15million Russian and substitute Emmanuel Eboue, who scored twice at the end. Arshavin netted a fine individual effort after 65 minutes and may yet be credited with a second after his heavily deflected shot gave Arsenal the lead after just 80 seconds, while Eboue benefited from a tap-in and a penalty. Arsenal took less than two minutes to open their account, Arshavin trying, perhaps unsuccessfully, to claim his first strike for the club. Nicklas Bendtner started things off from a deep position, neatly turning Morten Gamst Pedersen before rolling a defence-splitting pass to Walcott on the right. Walcott raced to the byline and cut the ball into the six-yard box where both Song and Arshavin were waiting at the near post. It was the Russian who got the first touch but a heavy deflection off Andre Oijer means it was surely an own goal. El-Hadji Diouf, booked for lunging at Manuel Almunia, looked Rovers' most likely creator, twice finding space behind the attacking Bacary Sagna but lacking support in the final third. There was a change after 13 minutes, Gael Givet giving way to David Dunn and Warnock dropping from midfield to left-back to make room. But the shift in personnel did not bring Blackburn's defence to life, with Bendtner handed far too much room to test Paul Robinson from 20 yards. Warnock himself was lucky to avoid censure when he barged the sprightly Walcott to the turf a yard outside the penalty box after he was released by Arshavin. With half an hour gone, the Gunners on the attack again, Arshavin and Walcott dovetailing wonderfully to free Sagna on the overlap. His cross found Bendtner at the far post but, after a moment of hesitation in the Blackburn defence, the danger was cleared. With 10 minutes to play before the break Samir Nasri almost made it two, rattling the woodwork with a vicious free-kick. The Frenchman went close again seconds later, striking a bouncing ball first time from eight yards and forcing an unconvincing save from Robinson. Pedersen had a half chance to equalise with the last move of the first period but with two defenders and Almunia bearing down on him, he lost his footing at the key moment. After the interval, the hosts came out in inspired form and Walcott, once more, was the key. First he outpaced Warnock only a minute after the restart, getting himself into space but then dragging his shot well wide, then he handed Bendtner the simplest of scoring chances. Speed was again the key, allowing the winger to measure his cutback after losing his marker. With the goal gaping, the Danish striker got his feet in a tangle and made only the lightest of contacts. And with just five minutes of the half gone Walcott made his third major impact, athletically volleying a loose ball in the area and drawing Robinson into a smart reaction save. It was not long before Kolo Toure got in on the act, attracting a huge cheer for lobbing the ball over Pedersen's head as he moved up from defence. But for all their dominance the lead remained at a single goal. Indeed, it was fast becoming one of those days for the oft-criticised Bendtner, who missed a hat-trick of presentable chances in the space of three minutes and started to feel the fans' frustrations. It was Arshavin who released the pressure. Collecting the ball wide on the left, the January signing drove straight for goal. He ghosted past Danny Simpson, who offered little by way of a challenge, and lifted his ball expertly into the roof of the net. This time there was no doubt over the ownership of the goal. Bendtner, though, had one more miss left before being replaced by Carlos Vela. A thrilling run by Walcott and a superb pass from Arshavin teed him up this time but a graceful move was denied a fitting end when the striker blazed into the stands. To their credit, the Arsenal fans gave the misfiring Dane a loud show of support as the left the field. Substitute Eboue, who has enjoyed less generosity from the crowd this season, poked home the third after Robinson pushed out another Arshavin effort with three minutes left. The Ivorian then stroked home from the penalty spot after Vela was clumsily fouled by Martin Olsson.

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