Premier League – Arsenal five clear with Blackburn win
Eurosport – Mon, 11 Feb 22:53:00 2008
Arsenal moved five points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a 2-0 home victory over Blackburn Rovers after Philippe Senderos rose to score with less than four minutes on the clock and Emmanuel Adebayor ensured the win in stoppage time.
The Gunners were on fire from the start and picked up their reward when the Swiss centre-half rose unchallenged to head home from six yards out.
Togolese Adebayor, denied by American goalkeeper Brad Friedel on many prior occasions, finally made it 12 goals in nine games when he controlled and smashed in a shot from 10 yards.
Alexander Hleb struck the base of the post in the second half as their early dominance tailed off into a performance that overall lacked their usual incisive forward play.
There were isolated sparks from Arsene Wenger’s team, but whenever Adebayor or one of his team-mates found their way to goal Blackburn captain Friedel was there to block.
Cesc Fabregas found early space on the right and one such foray led to the corner that allowed Croatian striker Eduardo da Silva to whip in for Senderos to head powerfully into the far corner.
He was allowed to score unchallenged by his South African marker Benni McCarthy, who was largely ineffectual in front of goal and often struggled to keep possession of the ball in attack.
The first good chance for the Gunners arrived when Fabregas nodded through a ball for Mathieu Flamini to chase. The Frenchman got to the ball first but his shot was blocked by the legs of Friedel.
Blackburn got a grip on the game and almost equalised seven minutes before the break when David Bentley flicked down the wing for Brett Emerton to whip in a cross.
McCarthy got his head to the ball then it ran away from his strike partner Roque Santa Cruz as he lunged to connect with his own head, but could not divert it on target.
The Arsenal crowd were given more headaches before the half when Stephen Warnock – who was superb in defence – clipped a ball over the top for Peruvian Santa Cruz to stretch again and almost score, this time with his feet.
Hleb controlled and shot powerfully from the corner of the penalty area four minutes into the second period. Friedel was beaten but unfortunately for Arsenal, the ball ricocheted off the upright and to safety.
Soon after Adebayor made his way through on the right and seemed set to score before Friedel again made himself big and blocked the tall striker’s shot.
On 67 minutes Eduardo made a beeline for goal as Flamini overlapped on his left; however he opted for the feet of Adebayor, who teed up Fabregas – and the Spain playmaker flashed a first-time shot just past the post.
Wenger decided to keep faith with his depleted first 11 while Mark Hughes, missing players of his own, made three changes – including FA Cup match-winner against Arsenal last season Jason Roberts for McCarthy.
The Arsenal fans were getting nervous as Blackburn threw a few balls into the box, but the best they had to show for it was a cheeky Bentley free-kick that Jens Lehmann – again deputising for the unwell Manuel Almunia – shipped around the post low down.
Adebayor was thwarted twice more in four minutes by Friedel, first controlling a Gael Clichy cross and shooting low from 10 yards then streaking into the box down the left and stepping inside, only to see the shot-stopper tearing out to challenge him.
Hleb struck a stunning shot from distance that Friedel threw out an arm to block and Fabregas could have doubled the advantage when shooting just over.
Adebayor bagged his deserved goal nearly two minutes into injury-time, shortly after Fabregas picked up a yellow card for booting Emerton – the only show of dissent in an otherwise well-fought contest.