Football: Champions close in on summit

Sutton sent off as Blackburn's Premiership struggles continue while referee shows 13 cards at Elland Road; Blackburn Rovers 1 Arsenal 2

IT WAS scarcely the awesome destruction of last season, but it sufficed in the circumstances for Arsenal, hoisting them back to third place and within sight of the Premiership summit again.

They were content to return south with maximum points from a match they seemingly had sewn up by half-time yesterday with an arrogance and economy of effort that will have reverberated to Old Trafford and Villa Park.

After the break, however, Blackburn summoned an unlikely recovery, only to run out of patience and self-control. Chris Sutton perpetrated one assault too many on Patrick Vieira and was rightly shown the red card. Tim Sherwood, his captain, was fortunate not to have gone the same way.

Blackburn's manager, Roy Hodgson, claimed mitigating circumstances on Sutton's behalf, revealing his centre-forward had suffered a broken nose shortly before his rash challenge on Vieira. It is understood the earlier incident also involved the Frenchman.

Hodgson had gambled by recalling Sutton ahead of schedule yet apparently did not have the total courage of his convictions and played no one alongside the striker in that fateful first half.

He summoned Kevin Davies from the bench for the second period, Blackburn pulled back a goal and Arsenal , in time-honoured fashion, battened down the hatches and satisfied themselves with the counter-attack. Nicolas Anelka, having scored the first goal with a majestic strike, ought to have spared his colleagues anxious closing minutes before they were assured their first away win of the season.

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said: "Maybe our performance of last year helped us win today because Blackburn were cautious in the first half. We had two chances and scored. The second half was different. They went for longer balls and we felt the pressure, wanting an away win.

"Vieira has some scars and I thought it was an unfair tackle from Sherwood, even more than the one from Sutton. You could say people are trying to bully him and goad him, and it's not the first time."

A repeat of last spring's 4-1 win, which effectively gave Arsenal control of that championship, became a realistic prospect again, almost by default in a surreal first half. Blackburn were encouraged by their initial progress, Sherwood, in particular, instantly dialling into his game and testing Arsenal's fabled resistance, firstly with a dangerous cross, then an athletic overhead kick.

Arsenal, with Steve Bould taking over as centre-half and captain from Tony Adams, repelled both threats and were relieved Sutton could not direct a header on target.

Those early irritations out of the way, Arsenal waited for the moment like birds of prey and it came their way after 25 minutes. Billy McKinlay allowed Vieira to hustle him, the ball broke to Anelka and the striker carried it forward before beating Tim Flowers with a fierce low shot, which smacked the inside of a post on its way in.

Five minutes before half-time Stephane Henchoz, perhaps a might unfortunately, was penalised just outside the area and four Arsenal players stood over the free-kick before the ball was laid to Emmanuel Petit, whose shot took a deflection off the crumbling wall on its way past Flowers.

Hodgson withdrew Jason Wilcox in favour of Davies and an orthodox 4-4- 2 formation for the second half and Blackburn upped the tempo. David Seaman saved splendidly from Sutton's deflected shot but was beaten after 64 minutes. Blackburn's persistence and Arsenal's laissez faire attitude turned the match into a contest, Damien Duff crossing from the left and Petit unwittingly hooking his attempted clearance straight to Damien Johnson who headed into the corner.

Blackburn, confidence restored, pressed forward in search of an equaliser, only to be caught three times on the break. To Anelka's dismay, and his team-mates exasperation, he failed to punish Blackburn.

Goals: Anelka (25) 0-1; Petit (40) 0-2; Johnson (64) 1-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-5-1): Flowers; Kenna, Henchoz, Peacock, Davidson; Johnson, McKinlay, Sherwood, Wilcox (Davies, h-t), Duff; Sutton. Substitutes not used: Croft, Dailly, Dunn, Fettis (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Keown, Bould, Winterburn; Ljungberg, Vieira, Petit, Overmars; Anelka, Bergkamp. Substitutes not used: Vivas, Hughes, Grimandi, Garde, Manninger (gk).

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Bookings: Blackburn: Sutton, Sherwood. Arsenal: Ljungberg, Vieira. Sending- off: Blackburn: Sutton.

Man of the match: Petit.

Attendance: 27,012.

Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
UK Border Control
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45-55k

£20000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is an established, ...

Recruitment Genius: E-Commerce Manager - Fashion Accessories

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Senior / Assistant Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Exciting new position available at an independ...

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Credit Controller

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful candidate will h...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn