Blackburn 1 Arsenal 4
Arsenal took a giant step closer towards ending their seven-year title itch
when they demolished Blackburn at Ewood Park.
The Gunners simply brushed Rovers aside to climb to one point behind leaders
Manchester United with two games in hand.
More ominously for United, Arsenal did not have to rely on a gritty 1-0 win
and this performance was the stuff of champions.
It is hard to believe that just three months ago Gunners coach Arsene Wenger's
side were 25-1 championship outsiders and now they are justifiably favourites to
win their first title since 1991.
It was Blackburn who last beat Arsenal in the league four months ago in what
Wenger regards as the turning point of their season.
But there was not even the slightest sniff of a repeat as the visitors cruised
to their sixth straight league victory.
PFA Player of the Year Dennis Bergkamp led the way after he took just 74
seconds to announce his return from suspension with the first goal.
After 13 minutes it was 3-0 and game over following a Ray Parlour brace.
The quicksilver Nicolas Anelka added a fourth before Kevin Gallacher restored
some pride for Rovers with a consolation strike in the second half.
John Filan recovered from his broken arm to take his place on the bench and it
may not be long before he is playing after Alan Fettis' latest nightmare in the
The Northern Ireland international had an evening to forget and he has now
conceded 18 in only eight appearances.
In the opening two minutes, Stephane Henchoz could only direct Remi Garde's
throw-in into the path of Bergkamp, who was back in place of Christopher Wreh,
and he burst through on the right to fire home his 20th goal of the season.
Five minutes later, Fettis was picking the ball out of his net again following
a real blunder after Parlour won the ball in midfield and played a one-two with
Bergkamp before scoring underneath the goalkeeper.
Arsenal twice went close to a third before they did net again on 13 minutes
with Parlour once more the scorer.
Fettis failed to hold Bergkamp's 20-yard drive from a corner and the
midfielder knocked home the rebound for his sixth strike of the campaign.
Gallacher refused to give up for Blackburn, who were without Chris Sutton and
Damien Duff, and he mustered Rovers' first shot on target with a header on the
half hour, which was comfortably saved by David Seaman.
But if Rovers thought Arsenal were going to spare them any further agony they
were wrong and four minutes before half-time they scored a fourth.
Nigel Winterburn played a terrific long pass from the left-back position for
Anelka to outpace Henchoz and round Fettis before slotting home his eighth of
The half-time whistle was greeted with boos of derision from the home fans
unhappy at seeing their side's UEFA Cup hopes suffer another blow with the
prospect of their seventh defeat in nine games.
The visitors should have had a fifth three minutes after the interval, but
Marc Overmars shot straight at Fettis.
Gallacher gave the home fans something to cheer rather than jeer when he
converted Jeff Kenna's cross on 50 minutes to score his 19th goal of the
After 57 minutes the ball was replaced with an orange one after Ewood Park was
enveloped in snow.
Callum Davidson, who had been given a baptism of fire on his Rovers debut,
also came off to be replaced by Patrick Valery.
The young defender will not forget his Premiership bow in a hurry against the
Blackburn: Fettis, Davidson (Valery 58), Kenna, Sherwood, Hendry,
Gallacher, Dahlin (Beattie 79), Wilcox, Flitcroft,
McKinlay (Ripley 79), Henchoz.
Subs Not Used: Broomes, Filan.
Goals: Gallacher 51.
Arsenal: Seaman, Winterburn, Vieira, Bould, Adams,
Anelka (Platt 69), Bergkamp, Overmars (Hughes 87), Parlour,
Subs Not Used: Wreh, Crowe, Manninger.
Booked: Garde, Vieira, Petit.
Goals: Bergkamp 2, Parlour 7, 14, Anelka 42.
Ref: M J Bodenham (East Looe).