Post-Match Report

Arsenal 3-0 Blackburn Rovers: Match Report

05/06 Arsenal 3-0 Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn Rovers -

Barclays Premier League
Barclays Premier League
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  Blackburn Rovers
Blackburn Rovers

Thierry Henry crowned himself the King of Highbury in unique style this afternoon.

Of course the Frenchman's exploits are lauded and applauded at his home ground before, during and after every game. But the 28-year-old's goal against Blackburn in a comfortable 3-0 win was very special - it was his 100th League strike at Highbury. 

No other Arsenal player has achieved this feat, even the legendary Cliff Bastin could only managed 88, and with the famous old stadium in its final season, it is virtually guaranteed that this record will remain the sole property of Henry. 

Despite the landmark, it would be wrong to overlook Blackburn's contribution to an intriguing game on a bitterly cold afternoon. Francesc Fabregas' stylish opener put them on the back foot after four minutes but they responded with the expected energy and worried the home side on a number of occasions.

Henry added a cushion before the break and, in the 90th minute, substitute Robin van Persie conjured up a stunning third to ease any faint fears.

This was not vintage Arsenal but the win puts them up to second the Premiership table. However Manchester United can push them down a place if they win at West Ham on Sunday.

Still, another victory - Arsenal's eighth in nine games - and another record for Henry just proves things are looking up for Arsène Wenger's outfit at the moment.

The manager rotated his side for the midweek victory at Thun in the Champions League. But this afternoon it was business as usual. Jens Lehmann, Kolo Toure, Dennis Bergkamp, Cesc Fabregas, Robert Pires and Lauren were back in the starting line-up. Manuel Almunia, Philippe Senderos, Alex Song, Mathieu Flamini, Freddie Ljungberg and Van Persie made way. Ashley Cole (foot), Gael Clichy (foot) and Alexander Hleb (knee) were the only major absentees.

The first flutterings of winter snow had fallen on North London during the night but they had failed to settle. At kick-off it was cold and grey but thankfully dry. It would take Arsenal just four minutes to warm up the crowd.

Jose Antonio Reyes tried to wriggle through on the edge of the Blackburn area only to be halted by Andy Todd. The ball ran loose to Fabregas 25 yards out. He took it in his stride, looked up and curled a delicious right-foot shot low into the corner of the net. The perfect start.

Arsenal continued to look superior in all areas. Brad Freidel had to snaffle Henry's free-kick around the post a few minutes later and, from the corner, Kolo Toure hooked a shot into the keeper's hands.

But it was never going to be a 90-minute procession of Arsenal chances. Blackburn are far too determined for that. Lauren stole the ball from Shefki Kuqi in the six yard box after 10 minutes. Nine minutes later Kuqi and Morten Gamst Pedersen were denied in a minor goal-mouth scramble.
It was becoming an open, fast-paced game with neither midfield have much control.

Midway through the half, Pires sprinted to the byline but could not find Bergkamp in the six-yard box. But at the other end, Craig Bellamy's rising drive was deflected over the bar by the head of Toure in the 25th minute.

If anything Blackburn were starting to look the stronger side. Bellamy touched Lucas Neill's long pass just past in the post with Lehmann left standing. After that Steven Reid smashed a free-kick a few feet over the bar.

Then came the moment.

In the final seconds of the first half, Robert Pires slipped the ball into the path of Henry just inside the area and he steered home another little piece of Highbury history.

Gilberto then nearly made it 3-0 in injury time but Freidel beat away the Brazilian's piledriver from 25 yards out.

Arsenal almost extended their lead within a minute of the restart. Henry crossed from the left and Ryan Nelsen nearly diverted the ball into his own net under pressure from Bergkamp.  But once again Blackburn battled back.

In the 51st minute Kuqi beat Lehmann to Pedersen's corner and Pires had to thump the ball clear off the line. Three minutes later, Reid sent a shot whistling past the post.

On the hour, Mark Hughes withdrew Brett Emerton with David Thompson. The Australian had enjoyed the early part of the game against stand-in left back Cygan but the Frenchman had increasingly been in control.

Blackburn's chances were now coming from other sources. In the 65th minute Pedersen crossed for Bellamy to twist in mid-air and float a header against the outside of the post. Then, in the final 15 minutes, Thompson tested Lehmann with a stinging long-range shot and a point blank header.

It was undoubtedly going to be Henry's day but substitute Van Persie did his best to steal the limelight in the final minute of normal time. He ghosted between Michael Gray and Savage then, from an almost impossible angle, curled a shot across Freidel and into the far corner.

If Henry is the King of Highbury then the Dutchman is fast becoming the Prince.

* Before kick-off, an impeccably observed minute of silence was observed for the late George Best.

Referee: Chris Foy
Attendance: 38192

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