Blackburn Rovers 1 Arsenal 0: Arsenal cast far and away by Pedersen

Rovers leapfrog Gunners struggling on the road
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The Independent Online

Where David Beckham and co failed in the Champions' League, Andy Todd and his team-mates succeeded, although the novelty of spiking the Gunners in the Premiership is running threadbare thin. This was their eighth defeat on their travels this season and hopes of making the top four grow more distant almost every time they get onto the team coach.

Morten Gamst Pedersen scored the goal that earned Blackburn their seventh win in 10 Premiership matches and caused more angst for Arsène Wenger and his players, who slip behind Blackburn in the table. In sixth place, they may have to do a Liverpool and win the trophy if they hope to qualify for the Champions' League next season.

"We can't put a run together," Wenger said. "It's one good result, one bad result, but that's because we're a young side." The straw he clutched at was the performance. "If we had played like that in every away game, we would not have lost eight times."

That was a matter of opinion because Arsenal brought only one substantial save out of Brad Friedel even if they had a greater share of possession. "We were good value for the win," said the Blackburn manager, Mark Hughes. "The players will gain a lot of confidence from that."

Arsenal arrived fresh from becoming the first English team to beat Real in Spain, but if they needed reminding that they were in for a very different game than at the Bernabeu, they got it within three seconds when Ryan Nelsen upended Emmanuel Adebayor. It was a foul, but at least it showed intent, something that had been beyond Real in midweek.

That cameo summed up the opening 15 minutes. Arsenal passed and ran like thoroughbreds while Blackburn strained to maintain equality, snapping at the visitors' heels in the hope of finding a blemish in the beautiful game.

Blackburn are not all brawn and no brains, as Hughes has been saying all season. And they proved it after 18 minutes when they took the lead thanks to the improvisation of Craig Bellamy. The Wales striker eluded Philippe Senderos with the flick of his right heel on the right wing and, so mesmerised were the Arsenal back four by this piece of skill, they failed to pick up Pedersen's run. When the ball was pulled back to him, the Norwegian smashed it in from six yards.

Where Arsenal had shone, they laboured thereafter and it summed up their struggles for the rest of the match when Jens Lehmann was booked after 56 minutes. The German goalkeeper, whose fuse is not so much short as buried in gunpowder, pushed Steven Reid to the ground after the Blackburn player had hampered his attempts at a quick free-kick and he could consider himself lucky he did not seea red card. The solitary save Arsenal forced out of Friedel came after 70 minutes when Cesc Fabregas floated a pass to Adebayor. He chested the ball down and his shot at least tested the reflexes of the Blackburn goalkeeper.

It was a rare effort on a bad day for the visitors and, when the match finished, Lehmann showered Savage with an energy drink in an act of frustration and spiteful petulance. Ten months ago Arsenal beat Blackburn in the FA Cup semi-finals: yesterday provided a large degree of revenge.

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