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Match Report


Posted Sat 28 Aug 10 at 14:44 PM

Report: Rovers 1 Arsenal 2

Rovers lost a pulsating Premier League encounter as Arsenal grabbed a hard fought 2-1 Ewood Park win.

The first half flew by as both sides gave their all, with chances at either end before Theo Walcott gave the visitors a 20th minute lead with a low drive.

Rovers hit back almost immediately when El-Hadji Diouf skinned Laurent Koscielny to give his namesake Mame Biram Diouf a simple tap-in for his first league goal in Rovers colours.

The second half didn't hit the same heights as the first with the Gunners grabbing the only goal of the second period on 51 minutes when following Cesc Fabregas's blocked effort Andrey Arshavin pounced on the loose ball to fire through a host of legs.

Rovers threw everything at Arsenal in an attempt in getting back on level terms but despite some tense late moments, Arsene Wenger's side held on to claim the points.

Ahead of the game Sam Allardyce made two changes from the side that played against Birmingham City the previous weekend.

Following on from his hat-trick performance against Norwich City in midweek, Mame Biram Diouf made his first Premier League start, getting the nod ahead of Martin Olsson who dropped to the bench.

The other change saw another player to come through the Carling Cup match, Vince Grella, return to the starting line-up. Preferred in the centre of midfield to Steven Nzonzi.

In drizzling conditions it was the visitors who started on the front foot, early pressure leading to a corner on the right and as Rovers failed to clear their lines the ball fell to Abou Diaby on the edge of the box, his strike went through the crowded area struck Vince Grella in front of goal deflected off Paul Robinson and away.

After that let-off it was Rovers' turn to see an effort cleared off the line. Morten Gamst Pedersen's corner kick eventually finding Ryan Nelsen, the Kiwi headed goalwards but Cesc Fabregas cleared away on the Gunners' goal line.

It was a pulsating start with both sides attacking at will, a Samba flick from a Pedersen throw saw Almunia scrambling back to tip away under his bar, whilst at the other end Samba showed his defensive side by making an important sliding tackle to deny Theo Walcott.

It was hundred mile an hour football, El-Hadji Diouf couldn't time his through ball to Nikola Kalinic as the Croatian was flagged offside when through, then Almunia had to be alert to quell more threats into his area. Another Pedersen corner saw Samba head over the bar.

However Rovers' fine start was undone on 20 minutes when a slick move saw the visitors take the lead. Robin van Persie found space in the centre of the Rovers half to spread the ball out wide right to Theo Walcott and with Gael Givet caught upfield he outpaced the covering Vince Grella before entering the area and driving low past Paul Robinson into the far corner of the goal.

Despite being a goal down Rovers' front three of El-Hadji Diouf, Niko Kalinic and Mame Biram Diouf continued to cause the Arsenal back line problems and it didn't take long for them to eventually crack.

And on 27 minutes as the sunshine made an appearance, captain Chris Samba strolled out of defence to halfway before finding El-Hadji Diouf on the left flank, the former Senegal international showed good skills and pace to go around defender Laurent Koscielny, cut into the area and tee up his namesake Mame Biram Diouf for the easiest of tap-ins to level the scores.

He couldn't have had an easier way to notch his first Premier League goal for Rovers.

Arsenal were then dealt a blow in the 35th minute when Robin van Persie went down off the ball. The Dutchman had earlier required treatment, but was unable to continue, his place taken by summer signing Maroune Chamakh.

Both sides continued to attack at will but neither goalkeeper was threatened further and as referee Chris Foy blew to signal half-time all four sides of the ground stood to applause what had been an excellent first half of football.

In comparison to the first half the second was slower to get going, Morten Gamst Pedersen having the first effort at goal on 50 minutes with a shot from 25 yard that flew narrowly over Manuel Almunia's crossbar.

But from the resulting goal kick the visitors regained the lead. Bacary Sagna finding Cesc Fabregas in the area, his shot was well blocked but the loose ball fell to Andrey Arshavin and he fired into the corner of the goal despite the best efforts of Salgado and Samba.

Fabregas then turned provider for substitute Chamakh but the Moroccan's effort was deflected wide of goal by Nelsen.

Phil Jones' clever through ball deserved better, Thomas Vermaelen losing out to Niko Kalinic but the Croatian fired over from the angle.

David Dunn was introduced on 55 minutes, replacing Vince Grella as Sam Allardyce looked to more attacking options to get back into the game for a second time.

A second switch saw Martin Olsson brought on down the left with Kalinic making way, Mame Diouf moving into the central position. The Swede was straight into the thick of the action, inches away from connecting with Pedersen's teasing cross.

After such a pulsating first half it was perhaps not surprising that the second period never hit the same heights as the first. With Arsenal regaining the lead they were content to keep possession, taking their time to pick their passes.

Rovers never gave up but somehow lacked the thread they carried in the first half, Mame Biram Diouf never gave Vermaelen and Koscielny a moments rest, whilst El-Hadji Diouf has his usual annoyance to the opposition.

With Cesc Fabregas replaced by Thomas Rosicky, Arsenal's threat was carried by the lively Theo Walcott. Under the watchful eye of England boss Fabio Capello, the Arsenal forward was inches away from grabbing his second of the game with a dipping volley.

With the last throw of the dice Allardyce threw on Steven Nzonzi for the now tiring Mame Diouf. The Frenchman moving to midfield in a reshuffle that saw Chris Samba move up front. Moments later, but unconnected, David Dunn found space for a shot on the edge of the area but it was straight at Almunia.

The from a Pedersen corner the ball fell to Michel Salgado but the Spaniard fired high and wide.

With five minutes to go Gael Givet saw a shot blocked by Song then Samba crumpled to the ground under pressure from Vermaelen but referee Foy was unmoved.

Then as the game moved into added time El-Hadji Diouf went down, followed by Olsson, again the referee was unimpressed. Arsenal broke with three on two but Wilshere saw his shot turned around the post by Robinson.

It was all hands to the pump in the final seconds but as with Birmingham seven days earlier Rovers couldn't grab that elusive leveller.

An enforced break for the internationals now follow, Rovers have a fortnight to get the defeat out of the system.

ROVERS: Robinson, Salgado, Samba (c), Nelsen, Givet, Jones, Grella (sub Dunn 56 mins), Pedersen, MB Diouf (sub Nzonzi 80 mins), Kalinic (sub Olsson 65 mins), EH Diouf.

Subs not used: Bunn (GK), Emerton, Hoilett, Chimbonda

ARSENAL: Almunia, Diaby, Sagna, Fabregas (c) (sub Rosicky 68 mins), Vermaelen, Koscielny, van Persie (sub Chamakh 35 mins), Walcott, Song, Clichy, Arshavin (sub Wilshire 82 mins).

Subs not used: Fabianski (GK), Vela, Eboue, Gibbs.

Booked: Givet (Rovers)

Attendance: 25,059

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