Van Persie 14'
Arsenal fell to Blackburn Rovers today by a final score of 2-1 at Ewood Park in Lancashire. The loss keeps Arsenal at 72 points, ahead of Tottenham (who have a game in hand) by five points with one match left to play. The loss also means that Arsenal have now won only one match out of their last eight after being well-positioned to challenge for the Premier League title a month and a half ago.
Arsenal began the game brightly enough, controlling the majority of possession (as they did, indeed, for most of the game), and when van Persie scored a header from a Sagna flick on a corner after 13 minutes, the game seemed to all be in Arsenal's favor.
The action slowed somewhat after the goal, and as halftime approached, Blackburn found their leveller. A corner fell to Keith Andrews, who rifled a pass across the six-yard box. Jason Roberts got a toe to the ball, which fell kindly to an unmarked David Dunn to tap home at the far post. The home side went into halftime on the momentum of a tying goal, and the game was up in the air.
The second half opened in much the same fashion as the first. Arsenal came out firing, van Persie having two shots denied and a decent penalty shout ignored by the referee, Martin Atkinson. Fabianski produced two great saves from Morten Gamst Pedersen and Junior Hoilett around the hour mark, but his fortunes were about to change for the worse. Blackburn won a corner, which Pedersen delivered almost straight down the goal line. Chris Samba and a fleet of Rovers backed into the Arsenal defense, Fabianski pushed across his goal line and onto the ground, leaving Samba free to head the game-winner home.
The Polish keeper has not covered himself in glory this season, and this was no exception; he was completely unable to elevate and challenge for the ball, and Blackburn's job was all too easy. His lack of decisiveness in his area was compounded by a lack of protection from the referee. It is not really debatable whether he was illegally interfered with or not, but either way, the keeper cannot allow himself to be barged over in that fashion.
The remaining twenty-five minutes saw Arsène Wenger introduce Andrei Arshavin and Eduardo into the game in a bid for a late equalizer, but despite Arsenal's possession, they could not deliver a killer final ball as Blackburn put ten or eleven men behind the ball. Arshavin managed to test Paul Robinson with one good drive that went straight into the Englishman's hands, but Arsenal looked to have run out of ideas. They lost the ball too easily around the Rovers' area, and the game sludged towards its conclusion.
The loss means that Arsenal have one more chance to solidify third place when they welcome Fulham to the Emirates next weekend, unless Tottenham seal their own fate with a draw or loss at Manchester City this week.