19 March 2005

Blackburn 0 - 1 Arsenal

It seems Blackburn have finally learned to defend this year under the guidance of Mark Hughes. They've yet to give up more than a single goal in any league game in 2005 and as a result have clawed their way above the relegation fray. I've followed Blackburn since their promotion a few years back, primarily because of their American goalkeeper, Brad Friedel. In their first few years in the Prem, they were an enjoyable team to watch because of their offensive exploits. With a midfield containing Damien Duff and David Dunn, their zeal in pushing forward was entertaining, swashbuckling stuff. So what if they left Friedel more exposed than a stripper in a snowstorm. Nowadays, with Hughes at the helm, the focus has shifted to the defensive end of the pitch. And while they may not be as entertaining to watch, I'm certain no one appreciates the changes more than Friedel. I can recall only one significant save the he was forced into on this day.

Still, Blackburn have a recent history of unveiling a new savior at the end of every campaign. Last year Jonathan Stead's goals kept them up, this year it's Morten Pedersen. I must say Pedersen possesses a wicked left foot and he looked very dangerous from set pieces. I'd love to see Blackburn be able to hang on to this revelation from Norway, but if his influence proves more lasting that Stead's, I think he'll go the way of Dunn and Duff and head to a bigger club. We'll see how he performs next year.

As far as this game went, until van Persie's goal, I thought Blackburn had acquited themselves quite well. Neither team had many chances in the first half and it took a brilliant bit of skill from Cole and van Persie to undo Rovers. Since the winter break, Cole has shown more of his attacking abilities and it's been impressive to watch. For Arsenal's sake, I really hope they can hang on to him over the summer.

Quality chances were at a premium in the second half as well and van Persie again went close when he curled a shot against the crossbar. Despite some dangerous Pedersen crosses, Blackburn couldn't seem to mount a serious threat. They could, however, devote themselves to whacking Arsenal's skilled players. Steven Reid seemed especially earnest in his physical approach and really should have been dealt with much more harshly by Graham Poll. It all got a bit chippy in the latter stages of the second half and for some reason, Poll seemed intent on delivering lengthy lectures to the Rover's players. For all his cynical play, the opportunity to level the score fell to Steven Reid, who, when faced with possibility of greatness, stubbed his shot into the ground and wide. I must say Reid had the look of a former, and possibly future, Millwall player with his performance today.

So Arsenal take the points, and at least keep the pressure on ManU. We'll see what the FA Cup semifinal is like when these two teams meet again on Apr. 16. I've got to believe that a stronger Arsenal side will have little trouble getting by Blackburn- even if they finally have learned how to defend respectably.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?