Arsenal Come Good Up North

Arsenal continued their unbeaten start to the Premier League with an entertaining 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
Theo Walcott and Mame Biram Diouf both scored in the opening half-hour to follow hat-tricks they both scored in their previous matches, against Blackpool and Norwich City respectively. Andrei Arshavin then restored the Gunners’ lead early in the second half to avenge their defeat by the same scoreline in the penultimate match of last season.
Arshavin found Robin van Persie in the centre on 20 minutes, and the Dutchman turned and played the ball into the path of Walcott, who drilled a clinical low strike into the far bottom corner. The shot was a genuine netbuster, fierce enough to break open a small hole in the side-netting, the repairing of which caused a delay in the second-half kick-off.
Blackburn were unperturbed at going behind after their bright start, and they deservedly levelled the match seven minutes later. Christopher Samba, immense throughout the match, broke up an attack and gambolled forward before releasing El-Hadji Diouf down the left. Laurent Koscielny, back from suspension, provided little resistance for the forward, who muscled past the Frenchman with ease before squaring the ball for Mame Biram Diouf to tap in from six yards.
The Gunners were back in front soon after the break courtesy of Arshavin’s second goal of the season. Bacary Sagna charged down the right wing and squared the ball to Cesc Fabregas. The Arsenal captain’s shot rebounded off Walcott but into the path of the Russian who finished from 12 yards.
Fabregas and van Persie were both making their first starts of the season for the Gunners, but the latter was forced off after 35 minutes with a calf injury. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has often lamented the physical approach adopted by certain Premier League teams against his players, not least in midweek when he likened Stoke City’s tactics to those of a rugby team, but van Persie’s injury was sustained in an innocuous clash with Rovers’ teenage defender Phil Jones, deployed here in front of the back four. Fabregas was then replaced by Tomas Rosicky midway through the second half.
Arsenal could have had the lead as early as the fourth minute, when a short corner routine ended with the ball pinging around the box before Abou Diaby’s shot deflected off both Vince Grella and Paul Robinson and out to safety. Neither player knew much about it, but Rovers remained on terms.
After that Arsenal struggled once again to deal with Blackburn’s direct, aerial threat, with Ryan Nelsen having his header from a ninth-minute corner headed off the line by Fabregas, with Samba also heading over the bar from another set piece.
After Arshavin had restored the Gunners lead the London side began to exert more control over the match. Marouane Chamakh, on to replace van Persie, impressed again in attack.
However, as the clock ticked down, Blackburn rallied, and Michel Salgado could have equalised late on when he blazed a strike over the bar from close range after Samba had headed a corner into his path.
Walcott was denied a brace with five minutes left when he had the ball in the net, but the flag was already up for offside, while late substitute Jack Wilshere was denied an injury time goal on the break by a near-post save from Robinson.

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