Blackpool 1-3 Arsenal: Van Persie inspired win keeps Gunners in title chase
Arsene Wenger's men close gap at top of the Premier League to seven points thanks to late Dutchman strike in pulsating match leaving the Seasiders two points above the bottom
Arsenal weathered an initial early second half storm to record a 3-1 victory over Blackpool in a pulsating match at Bloomfield Road on Sunday.
The victory closes the gap at the top of the Premier League to seven points but might have come a little too late for Arsenal as they rue the cost of three consecutive draws.
Arsenal stormed to a 2-0 lead through Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Eboue and it looked like the visitors would cruise to victory but a Gary Taylor-Fletcher goal early into the second half gave the game a completely different outlook as Blackpool took the game to the Gunners.
However Van Persie sealed the points for the visitors with a third with fifteen minutes to go.
Blackpool knew a win would push them up to 14th in the Premier League and stave off the threat of relegation but they remain two points from the bottom after this defeat.
Arsenal were struck a blow even before a ball had been kicked. Their goalkeeping woes continued as Manuel Almunia picked up a knee injury in the warm up, meaning 41 year old Jens Lehmann was given the gloves his 200th appearance in the Arsenal colours and his first match since coming out of retirement but he could have stayed in it for the first half as he was virtually a spectator.
Cesc Fabregas was given the responsibility to drive the visitors on in his return to the starting line-up and the Spaniard did not disappoint having a hand in the first goal and constantly provided the service that striker van Persie thrives on.
Theo Walcott who scored a hat-trick in Arsenal’s 6-0 victory the last time the two sides met back in August had to be content with a place on the bench but came on for Arshavin on the hour mark and set up van Persie for the crucial third.
Perhaps appropriately it has been an emotional rollercoaster for Blackpool and this match epitomised their season. The Seasiders were knocking on the door for European football but now after 10 defeats in 14 since the turn of the year they have plummeted to 17th position in the league.
And they started this match on a high forcing a flurry of corners which PFA nominee Charlie Adam whipped in dangerously however the Tangerines were quickly dropped down to earth as Arsenal raced to a 2-0 lead inside twenty minutes.
Ian Evatt looked threatening early on getting to the ball before Laurent Koscielny but his bulleted header was wide of Lehmann’s goal as the Gunners defence looked nervy.
The centre back rose unmarked again on fifteen minutes but much like his first effort it was high and wide.
But Blackpool have been leaking goals lately 17 in 5 matches before this one and Kingson illustrated the kind of sloppy defending they have been prone to.
Andrey Arshavin should have made more of the chance that came his way from the mix-up in communication but volleyed high and wide.
The Gunners had a wonderful opportunity on ten minutes a diagonal ball was played over the top as Robin van Persie sprung the offside trap but his control let him down at the wrong moment and Kingson smothered the ball.
But the visitors would not have to wait much longer for the opener or the second and it was worryingly easy from a Blackpool perspective.
Fabregas the orchestrator delivered a high ball out wide to van Persie who crossed low for Diaby who had a simple tap in - it was a lovely flowing move that arguably came against the run of play.
Eboue doubled Arsenal’s lead moments later a one-two enabled the full back to dart in behind the Seasiders defence- with no one following his run -and powered a left foot drive leaving Kingson with no chance.
Arsenal were irresistible there fluidity and movement had the Blackpool defence all over the place, they seemed to be carving up opportunities at will.
Nasri could have scored twice in the space of a minute being foiled by Kingson after creating the chance himself and then Fabregas dinked a ball over the top to the Frenchman and his first time volley clipped the outside of the post.
Van Persie thought he had got the Gunners third but he was correctly ruled offside minutes before the half time whistle.
Blackpool nearly scored on the stroke of half time DJ Campbell thought he had forced the ball into the net but the Gunners managed to frantically clear it off the line.
But whatever was said at half time by Ian Holloway certainly had a massive impact as they came out with intent.
The hosts knew that goal would get them back in this game and Luke Varney should have scored as he connected with an Adam cross but it went agonisingly wide for the Seasiders.
But they did score moments later Jason Puncheon threaded a delightful ball through to Campbell he rounded the keeper and was fouled but the referee waved play on and Taylor-Fletcher slotted the loose ball into the empty net.
Blackpool were in the ascendancy and they were furiously protesting for a penalty moments later as Koscielny’s trailing leg caught Taylor-Fletcher in the box but the referee saw nothing untoward.
Complacency was seeping into Arsenal’s play and they were almost punished for it if Keith Southern had managed to get any contact whatsoever on the ball it would have been an equaliser.
Van Persie should have sealed victory for the Gunners on 72 minutes. Fabregas delivered a fantastic ball to the Dutchman who took the chance first time on the volley, putting the ball narrowly over.
Four minutes later and he did seal the win, a breath taking ball from Fabregas set up a ruthless counter attack, and Walcott played in van Persie who notched his 12th goal of the season.