Gunners rock 10-man Rovers
Van Persie nets hat-trick as Arsenal get top-four push back on track
Last Updated: 04/02/12 6:02pm
A hat-trick from Robin Van Persie inspired Arsenal to a crushing 7-1 victory over Blackburn on Saturday, with struggling Rovers ending the game with 10 men and firmly entrenched inside the Premier League drop zone.
The Gunners controlled proceedings throughout and saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain net his first two Premier League goals and Mikel Arteta and Thierry Henry also get in on the act.
Morten Gamst Pedersen briefly had Blackburn level at one stage in the first half, but a miserable afternoon for the visitors was compounded moments before half-time when Gael Givet was shown a straight red card.
Arsenal got the ball rolling inside the opening two minutes, with Van Persie left with the simplest of tasks after being picked out by Theo Walcott.
A spectacular free-kick from Pedersen restored parity shortly after the half-hour mark, but things went downhill quickly for Rovers from that point on.
Van Persie restored Arsenal's lead on 38 minutes and Oxlade-Chamberlain had them further in front two minutes later as he rounded Paul Robinson to roll into an empty net.
Any hope Blackburn had of taking something from the game was then extinguished on the stroke of half-time when Givet was dismissed for a lunging challenge on Van Persie.
Arteta lashed Arsenal into a three-goal lead six minutes into the second half and Oxlade-Chamberlain grabbed his second of the game on 54 minutes.
Talismanic skipper Van Persie swept home number six, and his third of the afternoon, on 62 minutes and Henry put a fitting seal on proceedings as he bundled home a seventh in stoppage time.
Pre-match talk of supporter unrest and top-four trouble was quickly put to bed in North London, with Wenger's side taking just one minute and 19 seconds to open the scoring.
Walcott was played into the right side of the penalty area by Francis Coquelin after a cross was only half cleared.
The England winger, frequently maligned for his poor choice of final ball, played a low centre through the six-yard box to Van Persie who tapped in his 121st Arsenal goal to overtake Dennis Bergkamp on the all-time list.
The match had been brought forward to a 1pm start because of disruptions to the London Underground network, and there were plenty of empty seats around Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal, who had not recorded a league win in 2012, continued to press as the visitors, unbeaten in three away games including a shock win at Old Trafford, defended deep with two banks of four.
Paul Robinson turned a curling effort from Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky around the post.
But after 31 minutes, Laurent Koscielny bundled over Anthony Modeste just outside the Arsenal penalty area.
It proved a costly foul as Pedersen whipped the resulting free-kick over the wall and into the top-left corner, a shot which Wojciech Szczesny got a hand to but could not keep out.
After the restart, there was a stoppage when Blackburn's Jason Lowe went over on his ankle in a sliding challenge from Rosicky, and the midfielder was replaced by Bradley Orr to make his debut.
Arsenal were ahead again after 38 minutes, and again it was Walcott who was the provider.
Following patient build-up, Alex Song slipped the England man away down the right again, and he sprinted to cut the ball back from the goalline right into the path of Van Persie, who again made no mistake from a yard out.
Before Rovers could regroup, it was 3-1.
Walcott and Van Persie combined again, this time to release Oxlade-Chamberlain into the Blackburn penalty area, where he skipped around Robinson and slotted home his first Premier League goal five minutes from half-time.
The afternoon got worse for the visitors after 43 minutes when Givet was shown a straight red card by referee Andre Marriner for jumping in with two feet on Van Persie.
Rovers made an immediate tactical change as midfielder David Dunn was replaced by defender Grant Hanley.
The hosts went close again when Thomas Vermaelen crashed the ball against the far post from Arteta's floated cross.
Arsenal further extended their lead after 51 minutes.
Blackburn only half cleared a corner to the edge of the area, from where Spanish midfielder Arteta drilled the ball back into the bottom left corner.
Rovers, who had beaten the Gunners 4-3 at Ewood Park in September, were over-run again after 54 minutes when Walcott's mazy dribble through the penalty area took him past five defenders before slipping in Oxlade-Chamberlain, who turned his marker and rolled the ball past Robinson.
It was now very much a case of damage limitation for the visitors, with manager Steve Kean pensively looking on from the dugout.
Van Persie, who twice struck the woodwork in Wednesday night's frustrating goalless draw at Bolton, completed his hat-trick after 62 minutes when he clipped home a cross from Coquelin at the near post.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was replaced by Henry for the final 23 minutes, which could not finish soon enough for Blackburn.To round the scoring off, Henry - on loan from New York Red Bulls - swept home number seven in stoppage time, with the aid of a deflection.
|Arsenal||Team Statistics||Blackburn Rovers|
|3||1st Half Goals||1|
|8||Shots on Target||2|
|8||Shots off Target||1|
|70.2||1st Half Poss.||29.8|
|60.7||2nd Half Poss.||33.1|
Barclays Premier League
|12||West Bromwich Albion||1||1|
|16||Queens Park Rangers||1||0|
|18||West Ham United||1||0|