Blackburn Rovers 0 Arsenal 4: Adebayor shows fine art of finishing

Arsenal provide a second hat-trick hero in the space of four days as Blackburn count the cost of their wastefulness in front of goal
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The Independent Football

This was a cruise for Arsenal and a morale-sapping afternoon for Blackburn, whose disquiet at the persistent linking of their fledgling manager, Paul Ince, with the Newcastle vacancy was compounded by a string of missed chances for which they were heavily punished. Theo Walcott started for Arsenal and the story again was of a hat-trick, although not for England's rising star but for his clubmate, Emmanuel Adebayor, who struck just before half-time and twice more in the second half.

Yet Rovers, for whom Ince has overseen only five matches, left the field more than a little perplexed, having created half a dozen opportunities to score in the first half but taking none.

Arsenal looked insecure at the back yet their efficiency inattack left Ince's team quite bemused. From one chance fewer than their hosts in the opening 45 minutes, they delivered two goals and their supremacy was not threatened again, Cesc Fabregas being at the heart of a performance that occasionally touched the highest standards.

"It was a pleasing performance because Blackburn are dangerous going forward and especially from crosses," their manager, Arsène Wenger, said. He tended to brush over Blackburn's chances but there is no arguing with him over his young side's fluency and productiveness in possession.

"We have scored four goals against Twente, three against Newcastle and another three today without conceding and despite our youth we look mature," he added. As well as 19-year-old Walcott, Arsenal pitched in two more teenagers from the bench in Aaron Ramsey, the 17-year-old Wales midfielder, and Islington-born Jack Wilshere, who at 16 years and 256 days became Arsenal's youngest-ever Premier League player. Yet even though Robin van Persie had them in front after eight minutes yesterday, finishing well with his left foot from the inside-right channel after Walcott had slipped the ball between Ryan Nelsen and Stephen Warnock, it was not until Adebayor finished off a masterful 27-pass move in first-half stoppage time that they had control.

Blackburn had responded to going behind with purpose and confidence and would rue their inability to make a run of openings count. Roque Santa Cruz and Steven Reid squandered free headers, while Keith Andrews, on his first Premier League start, and his 28th birthday, failed to connect with a ball slid to his feet by Brett Emerton, barely six yards out. Emerton had a shot saved by Manuel Almunia and there were two more chances for Santa Cruz.

For Arsenal, there had been openings when Walcott, retained against Wenger's instinct to rest him because of Sami Nasri's injury, chose to shoot when Emmanuel Eboué was better placed, and twice for Van Persie, set up in turn by Denilson and Walcott.

Eventually came the second goal, ending a typical move of patient possession, Fabregas at the hub of things as Arsenal stroked the ball this way and that before Denilson crossed from the left side and Adebayor headed in at the far post. As with the first goal, it was Nelsen and Warnock who were left looking accusingly at each other.

It was not a good moment for Blackburn, after putting in such a solid shift. After the break, Arsenal toyed with them. Walcott, who would get his rest after just over an hour, had two chances in quick succession and, after Kolo Touré, almost on the goalline, had missed when it looked easier to score, Eboué forced a fine save from Paul Robinson.

Ten minutes from time, Warnock's foul on Eboué, who would play no further part and is a Champions' League doubt, allowed Adebayor to score his second goal from the penalty spot, the prelude to another painful stoppage time episode for the home side in which Adebayor, on the end of Ramsey's pass, neatly evaded Robinson's brave attempt to save at his feet to complete his threesome.

"The second goal killed it for us," said Ince, making no reference to Newcastle, a subject about which he became tetchy when questioned on Friday. Blackburn supporters will wonder whether they have already watched his last match in charge.