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Rovers 0 v Arsenal 2


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Whilst second half goals by Thierry Henry and Robert Pires may have given Arsenal a 2-0 win at Ewood Park this afternoon, once again the headlines revolve around crucial decisions made by the match officials.

Referee Alan Wiley’s decision to award a dubious free kick following a collision between Henry and Rover’s defender Craig Short in the second half, was a cruel blow for the Rover’s team, who had controlled the game up to this point

Defending the Blackburn End in the first half Blackburn set off with a game plan to close down the Arsenal players, with Douglas and Andresen given the holding role in midfield restricting Arsenal to speculative long range shots.

With little creative presence from the Rovers midfield, Cole and Jansen were forces to search for the ball up front, and Rovers in fairness were the first of the two teams to threaten, when Ashley Cole had to clear Short's header off the line.

Rovers plan appeared to work, although there was a scare for the Rover’s supporters, when Henry stole the ball from Friedel’s grasp as the keeper prepared to kick the ball up field. However the referee disallowed the goal for dangerous play.

With Rovers playing the tactical game there were very few goalmouth incidents in the first half, which ended goalless.

The turning point of the game occurred 10 minutes into the second half when Henry broke away and whilst running towards the area, collided with Short, for which Short was penalised by referee Alan Wiley. Henry took the resultant free kick and curled the ball into the back of the Rovers net.

With Rovers a goal down they were forced to change their game plan, having to come out in search of an equaliser. Souness made some tactical substitutions, the first being to bring on Yorke for Jansen, which nearly paid off when Cole laid Yorke’s pass, low across the goalmouth, but Douglas, sliding into the six yards box failed to connect.

Souness made further changes in an attempt to gain a valuable point in order to climb the table, bringing on Gresko and Babbel, for Douglas and Todd, with Babbel playing up front to give some aerial threat, however Rovers weren’t able to get back on terms, and with time running out Pires sealed the win for Arsenal three minutes from time.

Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Todd (Babbel 84), Short, Gray, Emerton, Tugay, Andresen, Douglas (Gresko 77), Cole, Jansen (Yorke 73).

Subs Not Used: Johansson, Enckelman.

Yellow card: Andresen

Arsenal: Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole, Silva, Edu, Vieira, Pires (Cygan 89), Reyes (Clichy 77), Henry.

Subs Not Used: Kanu, Bentley, Stack.

Yellow card: Edu

Referee: A Wiley

In his post match interview Blackburn manager Graeme Souness stated.

"A poxy decision has cost us the game. It was never a free-kick, and that changed the game because up until that point we were containing them.

"What we had worked on all week, keeping their major players quiet, was working but you can't legislate for decisions like that going against you.

"Once again Lady Luck has not shone on us. If you look at the incident there's a coming together of Craig Short and Thierry Henry, and Henry himself made no appeal for a free-kick and that tells you everything.

"Craig has said that Thierry Henry told him he didn't think it was a free-kick at the time - that's why we are having a frustrating old season."

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