PREMIER LEAGUE: Arsenal's title chances slip with Blackburn draw
Arsenal may have seen their title chances slip away this evening after they were held to a goalless draw by ten-man Blackburn Rovers at the Emirates. The Gunners controlled plenty of the match but could not pierce a resilient Rovers defence who were forced to play the final 14 minutes with ten men after Steven Nzonzi was harshly sent off.
Arsenal had won five of their last six against the Rovers in the league and the last seven at their home ground in this fixture but could not come up with the winning goal despite a host of chances
They have now saluted just once in their last seven in all competitions but have lost just one of their last 16 in the league which came against Manchester United in December. It doesn't make their Premiership chances any better, however, as they are now seven points behind United but have a game in hand after three league draws in succession.
Blackburn are winless in eight but this point will give them a little bit of breathing space from the relegation zone as they now sit 15th on the table, two points clear of 18th-placed West Ham.
Venue: Emirates Stadium, North London Crowd: 60,087 Referee: Phil Dowd Yellow cards:ARS - Alex Song 58' BR - David Hoilett 31', Michel Salgado 39' Red card:BR - Steven Nzonzi 76'
Arsenal began in fine form with the returning Theo Walcott producing a few chances in the opening 7 minutes as the Gunners opened up the Rovers defence at will.
A 10th-minute challenge between Bacary Sagna and Jonas Olsson had the Blackburn man coming off second best moments before Gael Clichy, who was regularly bombing down the left, found Samir Nasri in the area but the Frenchman's header went wide of the mark. He came up with a huge egg on his head after colliding with Ryan Nelsen and the second short stoppage in play caused the home side to lose some momentum.
Blackburn began to come into the contest after the 20-minute mark, winning a few set pieces, but Australian midfielder was wasteful with his delivery.
The visiting side came close in the 33rd minute when Martin Olsson shot on goal, forcing Manuel Almunia to almost make a now customary error, with the ball rolling dangerously past him but in his defence it did take a little deflection.
Blackburn were doing a good job of frustrating the free-passing Arsenal side and again came close to the opener when Junior Hoilett flashed wide of the target before a tantalising free-kick was almost nodded home by Steven Nzonzi just before captain Chris Samba made a timely block on Nasri not too long prior to the half-time whistle.
The second half started much the same as the first with Arsenal enjoying more possession but Blackburn also pushing forward whenever they regained possession.
Laurent Koscielny's 56th minute header from an Arsenal corner was the best chance for either side in the early stages of the second term but Paul Robinson was not really tested by the defender's attempt.
Arsene Wenger had Cesc Fabregas sitting on the bench and injected some more creativity into the game when he deployed him just before the hour-mark, sacrificing Andrei Arshavin, with Samir Nasri pushing wider for the inspirational captain to take up his rightful place in central midfield.
Robinson was then called on in the 65th minute when Robin van Persie struck goalward from the edge of the area but the Rovers shot-stopper was equal to the task as the Lancashire club kept pressing with their own forward forays.
The match became to get a bit more anxious as time progressed and it did even more so when Nzonzi was given a straight red in the 76th minute for a challenge on Koscielny - the decision by Phil Dowd was very questionable.
Arsenal nearly crafted a goal with just over ten minutes left when substitute Marouane Chamakh was found unmarked in the area but his well-struck shot was blocked by Olsson before fellow sub Nicklas Bendtner headed over the crossbar as the Gunners onslaught kicked off.
The 85th minute saw Robinson push out another good Arsenal chance when Chamakh was pressured by Samba and the Rovers' defenders header almost got past his own keeper before Bendtner's free header was cleared off the line by Michel Salgado in the final minute of regular time, his side managing to thwart the home team who should have scored through van Persie in injury time.
ArsenalManuel Almunia (gk) - Bacary Sagna, Sebastien Squillaci, Laurent Koscielny, Gael Clichy - Andrei Arshavin (Fabregas 58'), Jack Wilshere, Alex Song, Theo Walcott (Chamakh 73'), Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri (Bendtner 78')
Blackburn Paul Robinson (gk) - Michel Salgado, Ryan Nelsen, Chris Samba, Martin Olsson -Steven Nzonzi, Jermaine Jones (Dunn 90+2'), Phil Jones, David Hoilett, Brett Emerton - Roque Santa Cruz (Roberts 62')