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Match Report


Posted Sat 02 Apr 11 at 20:18 PM

Report: Arsenal 0 Rovers 0

Rovers picked the perfect time to earn their first league point against Arsenal at the Emirates.

On an afternoon in which results elsewhere were mixed, Steve Kean's side put in an energetic and determined display to be full value for their point.

The match may have ended goalless, but both sides had chances. Martin Olsson and Steven Nzonzi going close for Rovers in the first half, whilst Jack Wilshire and Robin van Persie wasted efforts for the home side.

The second half was just as open, but the sending off of Steven Nzonzi with fifteen minutes to go handed the impetus to Arsenal, but impressive defensive displays from the ten men in blue and white ensured a fully deserved point.

Ahead of the game Rovers boss Steve Kean made just the one change from the side that rallied to a point against Blackpool last time out.

That change saw Phil Jones return to the starting eleven for the first time since early December, Mame Biram Diouf making way as he dropped to the bench.

As expected the home side started with the purpose of a side looking to reduce the gap to Manchester United at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

Alex Song had been denied by a superb sliding challenge by Phil Jones, before Paul Robinson saved twice to deny Theo Walcott. The first requiring Ryan Nelsen to clear away from inside his area as the ball ran loose.

Both sides were then subjected to injury concerns, Rovers with Martin Olsson after a collision with Bacary Sagna, Samir Nasri for Arsenal after a clash of heads with Ryan Nelsen. Both players were patched up to return to action.

It was Olsson who would have Rovers' first chance of the opening half, set away by Junior Hoilett, the Swede fired into the side-netting with space reducing.

Hoilett was proving to be troublesome to the Gunners, drawing a foul from Laurent Koscielny, but Brett Emerton couldn't take advantage from the resulting free-kick, firing high over the bar from the edge of the area.

Just before the half hour however Rovers were given a huge let-off as Jack Wilshire missed a golden chance to give the home side the lead. Robin van Persie fed Nasri and he teed up the England midfielder but six yards out he somehow side-footed wide.

Rovers very nearly made Arsenal pay for that miss, Martin Olsson again impressing to cut inside to let fly from 25 yards out, the low shot seemed comfortable for Manuel Almunia but the Spaniard let the ball slip from his grasp, it was the home side's turn to be relieved as the ball went the wrong side of the post.

Amusingly the TV cameras focused first on substitute goalkeeper Jens Lehmann before then settling on Arsenal goalkeeping legend Bob Wilson.

Rovers continued with their improvement with Olsson, Jermaine Jones and Junior Hoilett at the heart of everything. Canadian Hoilett skipping past Sagna and Sebastien Squillaci with ease but firing wide from the edge of the area to leave the home fans edgy.

Then Jermaine Jones set Olsson away on the left, he took the ball past Walcott before firing the centre into the area, only a vital touch from Squillaci preventing Steven Nzonzi from getting a free header.

On 45 minutes Nzonzi would get another free header and one from which Rovers should have taken the lead. In a near repeat of the last-gasp goal against Blackpool, Paul Robinson sent a free-kick long into the area, Almunia was nowhere, Nzonzi rose high but couldn't direct his header on target.

Arsenal rallied in the four additional minutes, but with Robinson alert and Samba's long legs denying Nasri, they were able to contain the Gunners.

As Phil Dowd blew the half-time whistle, the Rovers players made their way back to the changing rooms knowing they had given their all in an entertaining first half.

In contrast to the first the second half was slow to get going, the home side having the attacking impetus but without every creating a clear cut opening. The closest coming on 55 when Jack Wilshire was playing in once again but much to the frustration of the fans he attempted a pass rather a shot and Rovers cleared.

Cesc Fabregas replaced the ineffective Arshavin just before the hour mark, but Rovers continued to give as good as they could, a break from the impressive Jermaine Jones saw him exchange passes with Roque Santa Cruz to then feed Hoilett, but as the Canadian charged into the area he went to ground but referee Phil Dowd was unmoved.

Robin van Persie tested Paul Robinson with a shot from the edge of the box, the Rovers 'keeper down quickly to his left to make a smart stop.

But aside from that Arsenal created little in the way of clear cut chances, the defensive unit performing admirably to keep the Gunners at bay.

However with fifteen minutes to go Rovers were dealt a huge blow when Steven Nzonzi was shown a straight red card for a two-footed challenge on Laurent Koscielny. Replays showed that the Rovers midfield got his foot to the ball, but Dowd was unwavering in his decision.

With Rovers down to ten men that effectively ended their attacking impetus, as they employed a rearguard display for the remainder of the game.

Martin Olsson pulled off a superb block to deny Marouane Chamakh, whilst fellow sub Nicklas Bendtner headed over van Persie's centre.

Rovers felt Alex Song was fortunate to remain on the pitch after bodychecking Jermain Jones, then Dowd fanned the flames further when he thwarted a Phil Jones attack to bring play back to see to the aforementioned Arsenal man.

Arsenal showed more attacking play in the final stages, Robinson saved brilliantly to push the ball away after Chamakh's header deflected off Samba, then Michel Salgado blocked a Bendtner header on the line as they pressed into injury time.

Again four minutes were shown, but like warriors Rovers held on to claim what could prove to be a pivotal point in this season's campaign.

Rovers are next against Birmingham next weekend at Ewood, a repeat of the fighting qualities shown at the Emirates will surely see them pull clear of the bottom clubs.

ARSENAL: Almunia, Sagna, Koscielny, Nasri (sub Bendtner 78 mins), van Persie, Walcott (sub Chamakh 73 mins), Song, Squillaci, Wilshire, Clichy, Arshavin (sub Fabregas 58 mins).

Subs not used: Lehmann (GK), Diaby, Rosicky, Eboue.

ROVERS: Robinson, Salgado, Samba, Nelsen, Olsson, Emerton, Nzonzi, P Jones, J Jones (sub Dunn 90 mins), Hoilett, Santa Cruz (sub Roberts 62 mins).

Subs not used: Bunn (GK), Rochina, Benjani, Hanley, Diouf.

Booked: Song (Arsenal), Hoilett, Salgado (Rovers).

Off: Nzonzi (Rovers)

Attendance: 60,087

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