Blackburn Rovers 1 Arsenal 0: Todd gives tarnished reputation stylish make-over

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The Independent Football

No one was entitled to feel more pleased with himself than Andy Todd. He embodied Blackburn's less savoury side at the Millennium Stadium when he appeared to elbow Robin van Persie, but he was cleared of violent conduct by the Football Association in the summer and in this game he gave his reputation as one of the most underrated central defenders in the Premiership a good polish. Thierry Henry got barely a kick, in the best meaning of the words.

"I was pleased for him," Mark Hughes, the Blackburn manager, who made a point of singling Todd out, said. "His performance was fantastic, really disciplined, really committed and, although he got booked, I thought it was harsh. He was [a] different class today, he showed the character of the guy."

Todd looked a lot better than any of the Real Madrid defenders who underperformed against Arsenal in the Champions' League last Tuesday, but then so did the whole Blackburn side. They were in the face of their illustrious opponents, but in an acceptable way. In fact, it was a pleasure to see a physical side to their game after the tackle-free zone at the Bernabeu.

The prospect is that these Blackburn aesthetes will be playing in Europe next season because this win pushed them into fifth place and, with Tottenham Hotspur to come next Sunday, even the Champions' League could be within their reach.

It was not a notion that Hughes was quick to embrace, particularly as his side lost their next matches after their last big win, over Manchester United. "We set a target of European qualification this season and we are right on track, and maybe even ahead of where we thought we'd be," he said.

"We've got a real opportunity but we have to grasp it. If we can rein in Tottenham next week, we can all start to get excited. The main thing today was that we had belief. It was important that we made a statement and I think we did that. We are very much of the view that we're one of the better teams in this League."

Arsenal are in that bracket, but their away form in the Premiership - eight defeats, three wins - is second-rate and if Henry continues with his Laurent Robert impression it could remain the same. "The scenario is always the same," moaned their manager, Arsène Wenger. "After 20 minutes we are 1-0 down and chasing the game. We are not confident enough and we don't start strongly enough to put pressure on opponents."

As analysis goes Wenger was spot on, although any suggestion his goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is going soft can be rubbished.

Germany's answer to a ticking bomb kicked out at Robbie Savage, was cautioned for pushing Steven Reid to the floor and, at the end, doused Savage with his drink bottle. The man is a liability. A bully boy, if you like.

Goal: Pedersen (18) 1-0.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Gray; Reid, Savage, Tugay (Bentley, 68), Pedersen (Peter, 20); Sinama-Pongolle (Mokoena, 75), Bellamy. Substitutes (not used): Enckelman (gk), Kuqi.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Eboué, Senderos, Touré, Flamini; Fabregas, Gilberto (Lupoli, 82), Diaby (Hleb, 63), Reyes (Pires, h-t); Adebayor, Henry. Substitutes (not used): Almunia (gk), Djourou.

Referee: U Rennie (Yorkshire).

Booked: Blackburn Todd, Peter, Bentley; Arsenal Touré, Lehmann.

Man of the match: Todd.

Attendance: 22,504.

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