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Arsenal 0.v.0 Rovers

0 - 0
Blackburn Rovers

The Emirates Stadium

17th February 2007. 12:30

Attendance: 56,761


It wasn`t pretty and it was far from a cup classic but Rovers end there decisive week still very much in both cup competitions, although we will now have the decisive week all over again!

There was never any danger of a 6-2 mauling here as Rovers` resolute defence kept Arsenal at bay for the full ninety minutes, ensuring a reply at Ewood Park on the 28th February.

Both Arsene Wenger and Mark Hughes made changes to their teams from the sides that played in midweek. Incredibly Wenger made nine alterations with Hughes making a modest four in comparison.

On a crisp and clear lunchtime in London, Rovers kicked off and immediately sat back. The opening ten minutes passed with little incident, bar a miscued volley from Thierry Henry in the sixth minute as both sides felt each other out.

It was clear from the opening exchanges Rovers had no intention of attacking the Arsenal defence, looking nervous and tentative going forward. Shabani Nonda was the lone striker with David Dunn supporting just behind.

All the Congolese front-man had to feed off was a number of long balls over the top and some poorly executed passes from Dunn.

Rovers were content to sit with two banks of four ensuring Arsenal had to play with width and there was little chance of balls in behind or the strikers dropping off. Mokoena was excellent in stamping out any loose threats in the middle of the park but the first half belonged to the back four, all of whom played their part in neutralising Arsenal`s threat.

Ryan Nelsen was back to his commanding best often making those decisive final tackles, Stephen Warnock completely eradicated any threat from the rapid Theo Walcott out wide, and Zurab Khizanishvili and Chris Samba were resolute, timing everything to perfection.

In a barren first half there was little else to report except some wild long distance efforts from William Gallas and Mathieu Flamini.

As the teams trudged off for half-time it was clear Arsenal were frustrated and an aggressive second half would ensue.

Right from the off Arsenal looked to lift the pace. They were more direct and the passing was beginning to zip across the surface in great synchronicity.

Theo Walcott drilled a shot wide after some smart link-up play with the impressive Jeremie Aliadiere, but that was to be his last involvement. Wenger aimed to shake things up a little by replacing Walcott and a forgettable Freddie Ljungberg with danger men Thomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Adebayor with twenty minutes remaining.

By which time Matt Derbyshire had been introduced in place of an exhausted Bruno Berner. Derbyshire almost made a telling contribution as well. A glanced header from Nonda found its way through to Derbyshire on the corner of the penalty area. He showed great strength to hold off Phillipe Senderos before hooking a volley over his head that looped dangerously towards the Arsenal goal. Almunia had to scurry back onto his line and tip the ball over for Rovers` first corner.

It was the first moment of danger Rovers had created and it was so close to dipping in.

Then came a moment of controversy. Referee, Martin Atkinson, had generally performed well, despite making some questionable calls, and in some cases none at all, against Rovers, however, he missed what appeared to be an obvious penalty claim from Arsenal.

Aliadiere jinked one way and then the next in the area and a flailing leg from a Stephen Warnock lunge caught the Frenchman and he collapsed to the ground. No penalty was awarded, much to the bemusement of the Arsenal contingent.

Arsenal continued to raise the tempo but Rovers were working overtime in order to contain them, and contain them they did, well until the 83rd minute.

It is the mark of a great goalkeeper when he does nothing for 83 minutes but remains focused to make three world class saves.

First of all Rosicky burst through after a clever assist from Adebayor`s hand but Friedel was quick off his line and thwarted Little Mozart on the six yard line with his legs.

Still Friedel saved the best for his encore. Some shabby and indecisive defending from Rovers allowed Adebayor to dance his way to the by-line before pulling a ball back to Henry. His dinked effort was drifting goal-wards before Friedel diverted it at full stretch but the ball rolled invitingly into the path of the onrushing Justin Hoyte. He thumped an effort goal-ward but in the flash of an eye Friedel was up and down again to make one of the saves of the season.

There was nothing more Arsenal could throw at Rovers so they will have it all to do again at Ewood Park, when Rovers will have a number of players back from injury.


There was some sound defending throughout, which will please Mark Hughes. In particular the display of Nelsen, who has looked a little short on fitness recently, but he was back to his best here.

There was nervy and loose passing from everyone.

David Dunn is still lacking the fitness but showed he hasn`t lost any of that spark with some excellent turns and tight control.

Matt Derbyshire made a real difference when he came on. He should start against Leverkusen because he is fearless and is high on confidence at the moment.

Star Player

Brad Friedel.

This was going to go to Ryan Nelsen but it was his saves at the end that have ultimately kept us in the cup.

Player Ratings

Brad Friedel 9

Amazing saves at the end and this isn't the first time that Arsenal fans will be cursing his name.

Khizanishvili 7

Returned at full-back and was great. Perhaps a little slow but he reads the game well.

Warnock 8

Could have conceded a penalty but that aside he was brilliant.

Nelsen 9

God is back to his best!

Samba 7

Another solid and encouraging display.

Emerton 7

Really helped out defensively and tried to creat an outlet.

Berner 6

Looked a tad unsure at times but his defensive nouse helped.

Mokoena 6

Tidied up but he can not pass and do much else.

Bentley 6

Worked very hard but couldn't influence the game.

Dunn 7

Some may question the seven but he put in ninety minutes and never stopped. Showed some nice touches too. He will be a real bonus when he is fully fit again.

Nonda 7

Tried his best and was always looking to play on the shoulder of the defence. Should be commended for his effort.

Derbyshire 7

Gave Rovers more of an attacking edge after his introduction.

Todd 4

Played two minutes again but still managed to get booked again! How does he do it?

Date:Saturday February 17 2007
Time: 3:35PM

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It was dull but tactically brilliant from Hughes. I know some claim that we don't want a reply but at least we will have home advantage and a number of key players back like Gamst and Benni, maybe even Tugs too. Very impressed with us defensively!
17/02/2007 15:37:00
In a lot of ways a good result for you but now yet another fixture and a replay to boot.
17/02/2007 15:43:00
You make it sound a far better game than it was. I wish your better players had played in this game because at least you may have tried to get out of your own box. It was a dire, probably a fair result overall because arsenal had no tempo to their play. Although it was a penalty & the ref was looking straight at it but after the wigan game last week we was never going to get it.
Ashburton Gooner
17/02/2007 15:51:00
Hey Ash Goo, you have to make these articles interesting otherwise no one would read it, eh? It was dull there is no doubting that. However, when you have such a depleted squad as we do, we had little other choice. You would have polverised us had we attacked!
17/02/2007 16:37:00
roversman, I know we would have. Thats why I wanted you to attack!! lol. I do understand what you are saying & as I said in a previous comment, us gooners know all about injuries. I do feel hughes could have tried to make it a bit more interesting though, 90 minutes of defending in a cup game is not great. I would have understood had it been a league match where points were at stake. Lets be honest neither team needed a replay with all the games we have!!
Ashburton Gooner
17/02/2007 17:17:00
Ash, we're a cup side... we don't ness need points.... we want to win things and if we have to frustrate you then so be it!
17/02/2007 17:20:00
copied from last thread.....i don't agree ash goon.... We were awesome! Remember its not always about spectacle... but getting the job done, and bringing the status quo in your favour. We did that fantastically well today. Halted a fantastic team, with very skillfull players, got them back to our patch, its given some of our injured 1st teamers chance to get back for the replay and also stuck us in the record books as the first away team not to conceed at the Emirates......... Personnally i'd say WELL DONE YOU BLUUUUEEEESSSSS!
17/02/2007 17:22:00
Fairs fair govt, good result for your depleted team today! Bear in mind though that you're the second team to stop the gunners from scoring at the Emirates not the first! CSKA in the Champs League claimed that one , though you're the first English side! Yep, bloody frustrating, but well done all the same!
17/02/2007 19:08:00
Wasn't pretty at all but we got the job done. Had a game plan and stuck to it. I didn't want a replay but given a replay or going out today... only one winner isn't there! Bring on the game at Ewood. We tried the play you at your own game approach and got thumped (even if the scoreline flattered you), resorted to the beat you up not good to watch and not something that I liked approach and still lost, and probably rightly so as a result. We set out our stall today and the Gooners couldn't break us down, all credit to Sparky and the lads for that. A BIG thanks has to go to Bradders as he made a couple of World Class saves. Is our name on the Cup?!?! It will still be very hard for us to get past the Gooners in the replay but with players back, them with one eye (even more so) on the Champions League and 3rd/4th spot I have belief we could still come through this tie now and not just hope!
Hughes Da Man
17/02/2007 19:22:00
I was delighted to see Derbs back today! My favourite son has returned, start him againt Leverkusen on Thursday and my belief we'll come through the tie will grow even more. The back four were spit on today, well done lads.
Hughes Da Man
17/02/2007 19:24:00
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