Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny hands Blackburn Rovers thrilling win
Blackburn Rovers ended up delivering on Chris Samba’s promise to make Arsenal’s life a living hell, something of a surprise given that for almost an hour the visitors looked to have… only the weather to worry about. Arsenal twice took the lead here and should never have lost so heavily, yet once again they contributed to their own downfall to the extent that the supposedly unhappy Blackburn fans were speculating before the end that this could be another 8-2.
The soggiest Saturday of the season so far all but washed away the protest march against Steve Kean before kick-off. A few hundred bedraggled supporters made their point as they were escorted to the ground by police, and perhaps even succeeded in showing the depth of their feeling by braving a downpour, though there was little sign of dissent inside the ground, and even on the concourses home fans were debating with each other whether Kean deserved more loyalty.
When a clever ball forward by Alex Song split a statuesque Rovers defence to allow Gervinho to claim his first league goal for Arsenal after only 10 minutes there were still no dissatisfied rumblings from the terraces, and to their credit Blackburn managed to give their fans something to cheer about by getting back on terms midway through the first half. This time it was Yakubu Ayegbeni’s turn to score a first goal for his new club, and though the former Everton striker was slightly fortunate to be in the right place for Junior Hoilett as he wandered back from an offside position, there was nothing wrong with the deft single touch that stranded Wojciech Szczesny.
Players were beginning to lose their footing at this point as rain hammered down from a still-darkening sky, though Arsenal produced some of their brightest football and could have scored through Andrey Arshavin and Gervinho in addition to the goal from Mikel Arteta that restored their lead by the interval. Another first-time scorer for a new club, all Arteta had to do was crash the ball home from near the penalty spot after Aaron Ramsey’s shrewd run and perfect square ball had created the opportunity.
So Arsenal had little to excuse what befell them at the start of the second half, especially as their inability to defend set pieces reached ludicrous new heights when Song turned Rubén Rochina’s free-kick past his own goalkeeper under no particular pressure. Now trying to weather two storms at once, with the Rovers fans noisily backing their side. Arsenal simply went from bad to worse. Another set piece led to another goal for Yakubu, standing level on the six-yard line to get the crucial last touch to Steven Nzonzi’s low cross after collecting a corner at the back of the area, then almost laughably Arsenal contributed a second own goal.
There was not a lot Laurent Koscielny could do to avoid diverting the ball into his own net once Szczesny had failed to cut out Martin Olsson’s firmly struck cutback from the byline, but the way Yakubu, of all people, had sent Olsson skipping down the right to easily evade Johan Djourou’s rushed challenge and allow the substitute to do as he pleased with the whole of the Arsenal half to run at will give Arsène Wenger sleepless nights.
Paul Robinson made a couple of good saves before Marouane Chamakh’s well-taken goal five minutes from time gave the scoreline some respectability from Arsenal’s point of view and a better indication of the balance of the game, though conceding four goals to Blackburn is almost as bad as shipping eight at Old Trafford. That’s not to take anything away from a spirited and energetic Blackburn performance. This always promised to be a day for Kean to remember, and amid incredible scenes the end, after Per Mertesacker had headed over and Robin van Persie struck a shot at Robinson with stoppage time chances to claim a point, it was.