Premier League - Lehmann back in Arsenal win

Sun, 10 Apr 14:24:00 2011

Arsenal kept their vain hopes of winning the Premier League title alive with a 3-1 win over Blackpool at Bloomfield Road.

Match Highlights:

Quick-fire goals midway through the first half from Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Eboue gave Arsenal control of the match after they rode out a bright opening spell from Blackpool.

Gary Taylor-Fletcher pulled one back for the Tangerines early in the second half, but Robin van Persie's strike 15 minutes from time meant they could not complete the comeback and salvage a precious point. The defeat leaves Ian Holloway's side one point above the bottom three, who also all lost this weekend.

Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was a shock late addition to the Arsenal team sheet after Manuel Almunia withdrew in the warm-up. The 41-year-old made his 200th appearance for the Gunners almost three years after his 199th for the club and 11 months since his last professional appearance.

The win cuts Manchester United's lead over Arsenal to seven points, with the Gunners still with a game in hand and yet to welcome United to the Emirates Stadium.

Blackpool had the visitors overrun in the first few minutes, but Ian Evatt header wide from a corner was the best chance they could fashion before Arsenal worked their way into the game.

The Gunners continually exploited the very high line of the Blackpool defence, with Robin van Persie latching on to a succession of balls played over the top from Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.

Gary Taylor-Fletcher had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Lee Mason after he appeared to be tripped by Laurent Koscielny with 15 minutes played, and three minutes later Arsenal were ahead.

Diaby won the ball in midfield, found Fabregas and continued his run forward. Robin van Persie found him unmarked inside the box with a precise low cross that the France international side-footed home from close range. It was Diaby's first goal since the 6-0 drubbing handed out to Blackpool in the reverse fixture back in August.

In the blink of an eye the lead was doubled when Eboue played a one-two with Nasri and fired a solid left-footed strike past Richard Kingson.

That quickly-gotten lead seemed to visibly lift the Arsenal spirits and, freed from self-imposed pressure, they should have scored more before half-time.

Van Persie volleyed one ball over the top high of the target before Nasri struck the post with a similar effort on the turn, but they could not kill the game off before half-time.

Blackpool emerged rejuvenated after the break, and they again piled plenty of pressure on Arsenal. Luke Varney guided his first-time shot wide of the near post after being picked out by an Adam free-kick, and on 52 minutes they made the breakthrough.

Mason twice played advantage in the same Blackpool move - once after a foul by Jack Wilshere and again when Lehmann slid it and tripped DJ Campbell after the striker latched on to Jason Puncheon's football. The ball broke free for Taylor-Fletcher to finish and maintain the run which has seen not a single clean sheet registered by any defence at Bloomfield Road this season.

Blackpool were denied chances to draw level when Taylor-Fletcher was again fouled by Koscielny inside the box before Keith Southern somehow contrived to miss a header from close range.

If anything sums up the difference between these two clubs it was the substitutions made on the hour mark. Ian Holloway brought on Andy Reid for Varney while Arsene Wenger introduced Theo Walcott for Andrei Arshavin.

While Reid set about fouling Wilshere with gusto, Walcott set up the third goal which finally settled Arsenal nerves. The England winger was set free down the right flank and squared the ball to give Van Persie the simplest of tap-ins for his 20th goals in his last 21 Premier League starts.

Blackpool were unperturbed, however, and it took a good close-range save by Lehmann from Campbell to keep the two-goal lead intact at the final whistle.

Tony Mabert / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account