Souness fumes as Bergkamp snatches victory

Blackburn Rovers 2 Arsenal 3
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The Independent Football

If Arsenal under George Graham were all about winning with one goal; Arsenal under Arsène Wenger are all about winning with one man down.

For the second successive match, Arsenal triumphed after having a player sent off ­ the 11th of the season and the 43rd of Wenger's five-year term as manager ­ when Oleg Luzhny was dismissed for a second bookable offence.

Dennis Bergkamp's breakaway goal, in the teeth of sustained Blackburn pressure a quarter of an hour from the end, cut Manchester United's lead at the top of the Premiership to a single point. It also cancelled out Matt Jansen's two goals and justified Wenger's argument that it is points not cards that count.

Blackburn, who are above the relegation zone on goal difference, would probably agree. After seeing his side claw their way back from a two-goal deficit and then fail to seize their one-man advantage, Graeme Souness could scarcely conceal his anger, which was directed towards both teams.

"Their third goal was amateurish. We must sort out our naivety. We have a back four who do not sense danger." The Blackburn manager's frustration was the greater because of his belief that Bergkamp should have been the second Arsenal player to be sent off after appearing to swing his arm at Nils Eric Johansson when the scores were locked at 2-2. "If you smack someone in the mouth, there is no way you should be on the pitch," said the Blackburn manager before delivering a verdict on Arsenal from the Corporal Jones school of tactics. "They don't like it up 'em. If they are going to be a top team, they are going to have to learn to live with that, but for the first 20 minutes we could not live with them."

Arsenal's football in the opening exchanges was often sublime. The opener was the result of a beautiful one-two between Robert Pires, who had a hand in all three goals, and Sylvain Wiltord. Martin Taylor tried to cut the cross out but his lunge succeeded only in deflecting the ball into Bergkamp's path. His finish meant Arsenal had equalled Liverpool's record of scoring in 25 consecutive Premiership matches.

The second was even better, a route one move that could have been set to music by Mozart. Pires' long ball down the left was picked up by Thierry Henry, who advanced so quickly that Brad Friedel was forced into a furious back-pedal. Henry picked his spot inside the far post.

Most sides might have capitulated but despite their parlous League position Blackburn can still muster considerable quality and before half-time Jansen had drawn them level with two goals in fewer than 10 minutes, one from a moment of opportunism and one from a ghastly error.

First, Jansen met Craig Hignett's cross from the left before Richard Wright's punch and then he profited from Luzhny's stumble as he contemplated a pass. The Ukrainian's slip allowed Damien Duff to rip down Arsenal's right flank and deliver a low ball beyond Wright which Jansen clipped home incisively.

And then came the event which has become almost as much a Highbury ritual as a pint in the Arsenal Tavern before kick-off; the Arsenal sending-off. By the standards of Bergkamp's attempted stamp on Jamie Carragher on Sunday, it was fairly tame stuff but Luzhny had already been booked when he tripped Tugay in the 58th minute and that was that. Wenger, however, claimed the Turk had not been touched. Just like Parlour against Newcastle, Van Bronckhorst against Liverpool and Bergkamp on Sunday, his team was a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel 5; Neill 4, Taylor 4, Johansson 5, Bjornebye 4 (Hughes, 80); Hignett 6 (Gillespie, 63, 6), Flitcroft 5, Tugay 7, Duff 8; Jansen 8, Andy Cole 6. Substitutes not used: Berg, Mahon, Kelly (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Wright 5; Luzhny 3, Campbell 6, Keown 5 (Upson, 67, 5), Ashley Cole 6; Wiltord 6 (Van Bronckhorst, 63, 5) Parlour 6, Vieira 7, Pires 8 (Grimandi, 80); Bergkamp 8, Henry 7. Substitutes not used: Edu, Stack (gk).

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury) 6.

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