Arsenal thrash Blackburn 4-0; Arshavin scores

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Arshavin scored his first goal for Arsenal in a 4-0 victory over Blackburn that put the Gunners on course to regain a place in the Premier League's top 4.

Updated: March 15, 2009 09:10 IST
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Andrei Arshavin scored his first goal for Arsenal in a 4-0 victory over Blackburn on Saturday that put the Gunners on course to regain a place in the Premier League's top four.

The Russia playmaker needed stitches to treat a foot injury at halftime but still managed to open his account for the club. Emmanuel Eboue also had two goals as the Gunners moved into fourth place, the final Champions League spot, ahead of Aston Villa on goal difference with 52 points. Villa can reclaim the position by getting at least a draw against Tottenham on Sunday.

Arshavin, who completed his move to Arsenal from Zenit St. Petersburg in February, was initially credited with his first goal after just 75 seconds when he tapped in a low cross from Theo Walcott. However, television replays showed that the ball came off Blackburn defender Andre Ooijer before going past goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

There was no doubt about the second. In the 65th, Arshavin collected a through ball from Denilson and burst down the left into the area before turning Blackburn right back Danny Simpson along the byline. He dribbled a few more paces and faked a cross before lifting a shot over Robinson.

Arshavin could have had another in the 88th after taking a cross from Carlos Vela, but his shot was blocked by Robinson and the rebound fell to Eboue, who tapped the ball into the net to make it 3-0. Eboue added his second with a penalty in injury time after Vela was brought down by Martin Olsson in the area.

After the game, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger revealed the severity of Arshavin's injury.

"The doctor had to put in four stitches at half time," Wenger said. "(Arshavin) was the last one on the pitch (after the break) and we asked the referee to delay a little bit the kickoff because of that, but the referee didn't want to wait any longer."

Arsenal had not scored at home since Nicklas Bendtner's goal in a 1-0 win over Bolton on Jan. 10, which was followed by three consecutive 0-0 draws at Emirates Stadium.

"The goals were waiting for a long time. Maybe the fact that the pressure came off the team after the Roma game, we played with more freedom," Wenger said, referring to the team's victory in a penalty shootout in the Champions League against AS Roma on Wednesday.

"Our game is more fluid, our football is coming back," Wenger said. "That's more down to psychological reasons because the team was always highly focused and wants always to do well. We're on a very long, consistent run now and that's why I believe this team can go from strength to strength until the end of the season."

Arsenal completed the signing of Arshavin from Zenit on Feb. 3. The 27-year-old attacking midfielder was one of the stars of last year's European Championship after helping Zenit win the UEFA Cup. The Russia international finalized his move after delays caused by paperwork, which took the announcement past the Feb. 2 transfer deadline.

Samir Nasri nearly made it 2-0 in the 36th minute with a curling free kick that hit the crossbar, and then had his shot from inside the area saved by Robinson a minute later.

Walcott showed that he hasn't lost his pace after an injury layoff and frustrated Blackburn's defense in the opening stages.

It was Walcott's first start in all competitions since dislocating his right shoulder on Nov. 18 while training with the England team at Berlin's Olympic stadium on the eve of a friendly with Germany. His last Premier League appearance was Arsenal's 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa on Nov. 15.

Wenger hopes the pace and creativity of Walcott, who turns 20 on Monday, will help the Gunners finish the season strongly.

Blackburn had few chances in either half. In the 28th minute, midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen's header was tipped out by Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia. Pedersen later curled a free kick from about 20 yards out in the 73rd minute, forcing Almunia to dive to his left and catch the shot.

Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce said his team struggled because of a series of injuries that have depleted his squad.

Allardyce had to substitute Gael Givet early on in the first half despite the left back passing a fitness test on a knee injury Saturday morning, and Stephen Warnock was taken off with an injury early in the second half. Blackburn was also without defender and captain Ryan Nelsen and striker Roque Santa Cruz (knee).

"It was a very bad day for us _ not just the results but also two key players getting injured today," Allardyce said. "We have to accept this defeat on the chin."

Blackburn is in 15th place with 30 points, one off the relegation zone.

Arsenal is on a 15-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, though eight of those results were draws. The club hasn't lost in the league since a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City on Nov. 22.

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