Match Report: Colin Kazim-Richards cashes in as wasteful Arsenal blow big chance against Blackburn Rovers
Arsenal 0 Blackburn Rovers 1: Much-travelled Rovers striker subjects Wenger to another Cup shock and 'unacceptable' defeat
As a youngster, Colin Kazim-Richards dreamed of scoring in front of a packed Arsenal crowd, but when it finally happened for the boyhood Gunners fan yesterday, his strike turned out to be a goal that knocked Arsène Wenger's men out of the FA Cup in one of the shocks of the season.
Or rather, another of the shocks that Arsenal have been on the wrong end of, following their Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Bradford City.
Kazim-Richards, who was born in east London and qualified to play for Turkey through his Turkish- Cypriot mother, had previously made an impression at this ground when the screen showed him scoring a goal to help Fenerbahce beat Chelsea in a Champions' League tie.
He was cheered on that occasion, but yesterday, apart from the celebrations from the Blackburn Rovers fans massed in one corner, the loudest sound was the jeering of Arsenal supporters frustrated as their best chance of a trophy disappeared for another season. Kazim-Richards's goal, a slightly mis-hit effort, put Blackburn into the sixth round and means that his loan spell from Galatasaray could include a trip to Wembley, or two – an improbable outcome when the schoolboy who did not make the grade with Arsenal was working his way up with Bury, Brighton and Sheffield United.
Then he secured a move to Fenerbahce, where he played alongside Roberto Carlos and was managed by Zico. "Kaz has been fantastic for the last four or five games and I'm delighted he has got his reward," Michael Appleton, the manager, said. Appleton, himself, began the season at Portsmouth and briefly managed Blackpool – taking charge of FA Cup ties with each – before moving on to Ewood Park on 12 January.
"To come to Arsenal and get through a cup tie is one thing, but to keep a clean sheet and defend as well as we did is another," he added. "I asked them to believe we could win and at a team meeting before the match I said that if anyone didn't think we could they had two hours to change their minds."
That belief must have been tested as Arsenal dominated, especially in the early stages, forcing a series of corner-kicks, when it seemed that Wenger's decision to bench Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla with an eye on Tuesday's Champions' League game against Bayern Munich would not matter. As the ball sped repeatedly across the Blackburn penalty area, it seemed only a matter of time before Arsenal would take the lead.
Abou Diaby met a corner from Tomas Rosicky on the left with a thumping header that demanded a flying save from Blackburn goalkeeper, Jake Kean. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit a first-timer well wide after Diaby and Gervinho had prised an opening.
But as their dominance failed to yield results, Arsenal appeared to lose some of their early zip. Oxlade-Chamberlain seemed to choose the wrong option at every turn and Francis Coquelin was lucky to escape a yellow card for an outrageous dive.
Blackburn began to grow in confidence. But Arsenal still made another opening. Two minutes before the break came the most incisive move of the half, the best chance and the worst finish. Diaby passed forward to Rosicky, who took one touch before playing an instant through ball with the outside of his right foot that sent Gervinho clear of defenders. The pass deserved a decisive finish but the Ivorian rolled his shot past the post. That was the instant that you began to suspect that Arsenal's profligacy might cost them dearly, even after the sight of Cazorla, Walcott and Wilshere about to take the field inspired Rosicky to shiver the crossbar from 20 yards.
Almost as soon as the reinforcements had taken the field, Blackburn were ahead. Left-back Martin Olsson charged forward to get in a shot that Wojciech Szczesny could only parry. It came out to Kazim-Richards, whose scuffed first-time shot from 15 yards looped over the covering Thomas Vermaelen and in off the inside of the post. "It was not the greatest of strikes but he was trying to keep the ball down and got the luck he deserved," Appleton said.
As Arsenal tried to reply, Nacho Monreal bounced a shot wide, Diaby and Cazorla fired shots into a thicket of defenders, and Kean held a bullet header by Walcott at full stretch. Even when Olivier Giroud connected with Monreal's cross first time six yards out, Scott Dann got his face in the way.
Jeers for Arsenal, cheers for Blackburn along with generous applause from the few home fans who had yet to leave the stadium. Wenger, though, had no criticisms of the Arsenal supporters. "Not one defeat is acceptable," he said. "You don't want your fans to be happy when you lose at home to Blackburn. What do you expect? We had enough chances but we lacked calmness and ruthlessness in front of goal."
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