This time last year, Blackburn Rovers were something of a laughing stock. Beaten 7-1 by Arsenal, they were spiralling towards relegation from the Premier League, their manager and owners despised and ridiculed by the supporters, and nothing much seemed to have changed in autumn as they struggled in the Championship under the hapless Henning Berg. But no one in red and white at the Emirates Stadium saw the funny side on Saturday.
Early on, it looked as if Arsenal might equal their previous score against Blackburn as the chances flowed and the visitors' defence was stretched. But Michael Appleton's Rovers are a stubborn, hard-to-beat outfit who bend but seldom break. They have conceded only two goals – both penalties – in their last six games, and have lost only one of their last 11.
A play-off place is still theoretically possible, and this victory, achieved without the rested Danny Murphy, will boost their confidence for Tuesday's tricky visit to Hull City. They got men behind the ball and defended for their lives and although £8m summer signing Jordan Rhodes did not add to his 20 goals, his header allowed Martin Olsson to power in a shot that Wojciech Szczesny could only beat out to Colin Kazim-Richards, the former Arsenal schoolboy scoring with a shot that looped in off the post.
"It wasn't the most beautiful goal, but they all count, don't they?" Kazim-Richards said, reflecting on the strike that had beaten the club he supports, his fifth since joining Blackburn on loan from Galatasaray in August. "I'm from 10 minutes down the road, I was here as a schoolboy and used to train under the Clock End on the indoor pitches, so for me to get the goal is amazing. You dream of stuff like this and for it to come true... it's up there as one of the most important goals I have scored.
"I love Arsenal and I will be supporting them on Tuesday against Bayern Munich. I'll have my Arsenal top on, I'll be there in front of the TV, but this is what I get paid to do and it's nice for the fans, because they have had a rough time, everybody knows what's gone on.
"I think we have been battered here by seven in the past. [Morten Gamst] Pedersen said it's the first time in a Blackburn shirt that he has beaten them away. Not only did we just beat them in the FA Cup, there is a lot of history and we got spanked by them, so it's really nice to come up with something.
"We've had a good run, but we want to be beating teams like Arsenal week-in, week-out," he added. "We have to take this into Tuesday's game. Because coming to places like this, no disrespect, is much better than going to certain places in the Championship. These are the players you want to play against and test yourself against. We can use it as a springboard but we've already been doing well and we just need to continue."
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