PicturesReactionProgrammePLUS HighlightsPLUS ClassicsWallpaperArsenal 3-0 Blackburn Rovers
Barclays Premiership, Arsenal Stadium, Highbury
Wednesday, August 25, 2004.
Kick-off 7.45pmMORE PICTURES
- Neale Barry (Lincolnshire)
- Jens Lehmann
- Ashley Cole
- Pascal Cygan
- Kolo Toure
- Robert Pires
- Francesc Fabregas
- Mathieu Flamini 86
- Jermaine Pennant
- Fredrik Ljungberg 77
- Thierry Henry
- Dennis Bergkamp
- Jose Reyes 77
- Justin Hoyte
- Manuel Almunia
- Brad Friedel
- Lucas Neill
- Craig Short
- Brett Emerton
- Michael Gray
- Jonathan Stead
- Dwight Yorke 63
- Vratislav Gresko
- Nils-Eric Johansson
- Dominic Matteo
- Paul Dickov
- Kerimoglu Tugay
- Javier De Pedro 77
- Lorenzo Amoruso
- Garry Flitcroft
- Peter Enckelman
Reyes 79BLACKBURN ROVERS0
By Chris Harris
There were 37,496 paying customers at Highbury this evening but you can bet that thousands more will claim to have been there in years to come.
It was a special night for a special team as Arsenal set a new unbeaten record for the English League. The champions have now gone 43 Premiership matches without tasting defeat.
Blackburn were the latest team to try and spike Arsène Wenger's Gunners. They threatened to do just that in a hard-fought first half but couldn't live with Arsenal after the break.
Thierry Henry opened the scoring five minutes into the second half with a nonchalent prod past Brad Friedel from Dennis Bergkamp's pinpoint cross.
Cesc Fabregas doubled the lead, diverting Gilberto's header into the net from close range to become Arsenal's youngest ever goalscorer in League football.
Jose Antonio Reyes added a third as Wenger's men reclaimed their place at the top of the table.
In the short term, that is the priority. But in the future, football fans will look back on this occasion as the night Arsenal punctuated Wenger's reign with another memorable milestone.
Perhaps with half an eye on Saturday's trip to Norwich - Arsenal's third game in six days - the manager opted for two changes to the team which started against Middlesbrough on Sunday.
Robert Pires, who made an immediate impact as a substitute in that astonishing game, replaced Reyes on the left flank.
Freddie Ljungberg also dropped to the bench as Jermaine Pennant was handed his first Premiership start since scoring a hat-trick against Southampton on his full League debut in May 2003. That 6-1 win at Highbury heralded the start of Arsenal's remarkable unbeaten run.
Arsenal came flying out the blocks in their hunt for the unbeaten record with Henry unleashing three efforts of his own during the first five minutes.
First he found space for a shot on the edge of the box but went for placement rather than power, allowing Friedel to make the save.
Then good build-up involving Cesc Fabregas and Pires saw the ball worked wide to Bergkamp. He found Gilberto in a central position but Short's clattering challenge earned Arsenal a free-kick.
Henry stepped up but fired straight at Friedel, and the Blackburn goalkeeper was tested again by Arsenal's French striker within seconds.
The next opening fell to Ashley Cole after 13 minutes, but he elected to square the ball to a well-marshalled Henry rather than shoot. The chance went begging.
Rovers were being pummelled at this point but gathered their senses and forced their way back into the match.
Garry Flitcroft gave the North Bank Upper Tier catching practice but Short's hooked volley was heading for the bottom corner before Lehmann's sprawling save denied the defender a goal.
Dickov collected the loose ball and centred again, but Stead was denied by a perfectly-timed challenge.
Buoyed by their spell of pressure, Rovers pushed on again and carved out further opportunities. Neill's fierce shot flew straight at Lehmann and Dickov also went close.
But after a rocky patch, the champions finished the half strongly. Fabregas should have opened his account for Arsenal but fired wide with his left foot from 12 yards out.
Pires sliced a shot wide when the ball bounced his way inside the penalty area and, as stoppage time approached, Fabregas' effort was deflected over the bar by a team-mate.
It was a sign of things to come. Arsenal emerged after the break with renewed vigour and soon took a grip on proceedings.
Pennant was the first to show, slaloming along the edge of the penalty area before forcing a save from Friedel.
And with five minutes of the second half elapsed, Henry gave Arsenal the lead. As so often it was Bergkamp with a perfect pass, this time from the right, and the Frenchman found the top corner.
The scorer turned provider eight minutes later. Gilberto had just gone close with a header from Henry's left-wing corner and rose well to nod the ball past Friedel from another Henry delivery.
Fabregas, who became Arsenal's youngest player and goalscorer last season, diverted the ball past a defender on the goal line to become the Club's youngest League scorer, an honour previously held by Stewart Robson.
Blackburn had no reply, with the honourable exception of Vratislav Gresko's curling free-kick from the left. Lehmann was wise to the danger and bravely punched clear.
Wenger replaced Bergkamp and Pennant with Ljungberg and Reyes. The latter had only been on the pitch three minutes when he added Arsenal's third of the night and his third of the season.
Henry was again the architect. He raced through on goal and coolly set up Reyes for a tap in after Friedel had pushed away the Frenchman's initial effort.
'There's only one Arsène Wenger' and 'We're making history' sang the home crowd as the magnitude of what this team has achieved began to dawn on them.
The record is broken. Now for another title?
Henry slots home to make it 1-0Thierry inspects his captains armbandGilberto heads goalwardsand sees his effort go in off Cesc Fabregas2-0 to the ArsenalCesc is felled by NeillReyes rounds off the scoring with number threeThe team celebrate making history at the final whistle
2004/05 FIXTURE LIST
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