By Richard Clarke at Ewood Park
Blackburn staged a second-half comeback to consign Arsenal to a 4-3 defeat at Ewood Park on Saturday.
At the break, Arsène Wenger’s side seemed set to record a confidence-boosting victory. Gervinho and Mikel Arteta both notched their first goals for the Club; inbetween Yakubu briefly equalised with a cute finish.
However, everything changed after the interval. Alex Song turned a free-kick into his own net, then Yakubu stabbed home from close range. The revival was completed in the 68th minute when Laurent Koscielny conceded another own-goal, this time from Martin Olsson’s cutback.
Substitute Marouane Chamakh steered in a header with six minutes left to set up a grandstand finish.
Robin van Persie and, most notably, Per Mertesacker spurned opportunities in added time. But the equaliser just would not come.
It was another disappointing day for Arsenal.
Ahead of this game, Wenger handed Andre Santos his debut at left lack. Gervinho and Song were back after domestic suspensions. Aaron Ramsey had recovered from his ankle injury and was restored to central midfield. Andrey Arshavin replaced Theo Walcott.
Both these sides were under early-season pressure but while the visitors seemed to be on the rise, Blackburn were rock bottom. The first half did nothing to ease the situation.
The visitors were lively and attacking from the first whistle, exploiting any nervousness in the home dressing room.
It took them just 10 minutes to go ahead. Song was allowed the carry the ball forward in midfield and nudge a perceptive pass to Gervinho inside the area. The Ivorian swiveled and dribbled a low, angled shot across Paul Robinson and into the far corner. All too simple.
It was a blow to Blackburn’s seemingly fragile confidence but they tried to respond via a traditional method when Christopher Samba slid a header wide from Ruben Rochina’s free-kick.
However, overall, Arsenal were in the ascendency. Arshavin’s volley forced the best out of Robinson. The Russian had previously seen a rising drive deflected over. In the 24th minute, Sagna’s cutback found Gervinho in space in the area but this time hasty shot was hacked over the bar.
It seemed that Arsenal were about to take over but, in fact, the visitors got themselves level. In the 25th minute, Junior Hoilett’s clever pass found Yakubu, whose finish was equally adroit. Like Gervinho’s strike it was about placement not power.
The lead would not last long. In the 33rd minute, Ramsey escaped down the right-hand channel – an area Arsenal have already exploited to great effect – and cut the ball back for Arteta.
The midfielder met it with a sweet sidefoot finish high into the net.
Having got the lead again, this time Arsenal were more purposeful about killing off the game.
Ramsey robbed the ball and led a four-on-two breakaway. Had Gervinho’s raking crossfield pass been controlled by the outstretched foot of Arshavin then surely Arsenal would have extended their lead.
But the visitors would spurn an even better chance just before the whistle. Arshavin outpaced Jason Lowe on the left and cut inside before finding Gervinho. The Ivorian went for goal but Scott Dann charged down his effort. The unmarked Van Persie was in a much better position.
Arsenal were on top but it seemed that half-time did them damage.
Blackburn came out with greater intent and, within four minutes, had grabbed another equaliser.
Arshavin fouled Lowe on the right. Ruben Rochina’s chip to the near post hit the inside of Song’s right knee and trickled past the flat-footed Szczesny.
Matters got more difficult for Arsenal when Sagna limped off and Djourou had to fill in at right-back. Left winger Hoilett had been Blackburn’s most effective outlet all afternoon.
The impetus was now with the home side. They went in search of the lead and, eventually, found it.
Mario Formica went through one-on-one and drew a fantastic save from Szczesny and, just before the hour, Blackburn got a third. Hoillet’s long corner fell to Steven Nzonzi way beyond the far post. He drilled a low ball into the area and Yakubu tapped home from close range. Replays suggested he may have been offside.
Walcott replaced Arshavin as Arsenal sought parity. And it was that offensive attitude that saw them concede a fourth.
After an Arsenal attack brokedown in the 68th minute, Nzonzi’s clearance eventually found its way to Olsson on the right. He skipped past the sliding Djourou on the touchline and the Song on the byline. His cutback hit Koscielny at the near post and found the net.
Arsenal were stunned and again went in search of a response. Song was withdrawn in favour of Chamakh.
With 10 minutes left, Robinson tipped over Van Persie’s header from point-blank range. In the 84th, Chamakh rose between two Blackburn defenders to head home the Dutchman's left-wing cross.
It set up a frantic finale and Arsenal might have snatched a point in the first minute of added time when Mertesacker steered a header over the bar from Santos’ deep hanging cross.
Van Persie also saw a shot charged down by Robinson and Chamakh steered a late header wide.
But it was just not Arsenal’s day.
- Sagna 52
- Andre Santos
- Arteta Goal!
- Song 76
- Arshavin 64
- van Persie
- Gervinho Goal!
- Djourou 52 Yellow Card
- Chamakh 76 Goal!
- Walcott 64
- Salgado 15
- Dann Yellow Card
- Rochina 55
- Junior Hoilett
- Formica 65
- Yakubu Goal! Goal!
- Olsson 55
- Petrovic 15
- Vukcevic 65