Rovers into the Quarters!
Blackburn Rovers overcame all odds, turning back time and defeating Arsenal 1-0 in the 5th round of the FA Cup, courtesy of a late Colin Kazim Richards goal and some astute work between the sticks by goal keeper Jake Kean.
Manager Michael Appleton was forced to leave DJ Campbell out of the squad due to Cup restrictions, whilst Danny Murphy was given a rest with Morten Gamst Pedersen and Lee Williamson making a debut
Orr, Hanley, Givet, Martin O
Gamst, Williamson, Lowe, Markus O
With most pundits writing Rovers off pre game, Blackburn always faced an uphill task. Surprisingly though, it was Rovers who got off to the brighter. Rhodes earned Blackburn a free kick, floated in by Morten Gamst Pedersen with a deflected header finding the path of Markus Olsson who could only volley wide of the goal. Williamson put in some crunching tackles early on, showing the travelling 1400 Rovers supporters exactly what he is about.
From there on though, Rovers saw little of the ball, Arsenal persisting with relentless waves of attack, often resulting in a Gunners Corner. However, Dann and Hanley were up to the task, ensuring the 18 yard box became their own. It became increasingly evident that Rovers would not be broken through the middle, Arsenal often resorting to hitting the flanks and floating a ball in for Giroud.
With the relentless pressure applied by Arsenal, chances would eventually come to fruition. The first came off a corner, a powerful Diaby header well saved by Jake Kean. Kean would be called into action several times with Giroud, Gervinho and Oxlade Chamberlain all having attempts at goal. The best chance of the half fell to the feet of Gervinho. A delightful through ball finally gave the striker the chance to utilise his pace and break through the defence, however his finish found the sideboards as he couldn't direct his effort on goal.
Half Time 0-0
The second half continued off where the first ended. Arsenal applied the pressure whilst Rovers held tight, forcing the Gunners into wide positions. In credit to the Rovers midfield, they ensured very little time on the ball, Lowe, Williamson, Gamst and Olsson pressing at all times. Colin Kazim Richards would also become the extra man in midfield, toiling for the cause. Jordan Rhodes cut a lonely figure up top, but when the ball did come his way, his hold up play proved extremely important, earning several free kicks in the process.
With 30 to go, the man of the moment was brought on, David Bentley making his return in a Rovers jersey at the expense of Markus Olsson. Bentley returned to his preferred Right Midfield position whilst Gamst switched out left.
With Rovers defending ever so astutely, Arsene Wenger decided to ring the changes himself, Cazorla, Wilshire and Walcott all coming on t0 spark up the Gunners attack. However all it took was one moment and the fixture turned on its head.
Martin Olsson looked to have pushed up field with Gamst dropping into the left back position, and it was his surging run which created the ultimate chance. A venemous volley was well kept out by Szczesny, however the rebound bounced into the path of Colin Kazim-Richards, his return strike wasn't pretty, but sent the travelling supporters into raptures, bouncing into the far post and into the net. Blackburn 1 Arsenal 0
15 minutes to go and it was nail biting time. Wave after wave of attack, yet Arsenal couldn't create a clear goal scoring opportunity. Diaby tried his luck from distance whilst Cazorla learnt how hard it would be to crack the Rovers central pairing, Dann and Hanley both getting stuck in to prevent any opportunities.
As the 4th official displayed 4 minutes of added time, Arsenal went on for one last flurry of attacks, the best opportunity falling to Theo Walcott, his open header landing in the arms of Jake Kean.
We know how talented the lad is, but the situation did not overawe him. A few stunning reflex saves, great disposal of the ball and great anticipation ensured Rovers would hold yet another clean sheet. The kid just keeps on getting better!
Jake Kean 9
Brad Orr 7
Grant Hanley 8
Scott Dann 8
Martin O 7
Markus O 7
Colin Kazim-Richards 8
Jordan Rhodes 6