The major talking point of the match followed. Savage battered Gilberto to the ground from behind and had another wild hack while he was down. An irate Gilberto rose to the bait and flicked a foot in Savage's direction. Savage acted as if hit by cannon fir before going through his ‘who me?' routine. A sensible ref would have flashed two yellows but we had Rob Styles in charge today so he sent Gilberto off whilst giving the peroxide twat a yellow. Violent conduct it most certainly was not, even accounting for Savage's extravagant over reactions that fooled no one other than Styles of course. So there we were with 77 minutes remaining and down to ten men.
McCarthy joined the Blackburn acting fraternity with a dive before having a kick at Cesc. The rain was by now hissing down and Arsenal were riled into playing some good football. One such flowing move ended with a Fabregas shot being blocked. Amazingly Arsene had left the formation as a 4-3-2 which effectively meant that either Robin or Thierry dropped back into midfield and Arsenal generally sat deeper with Hleb, Rosicky and Fabregas working their rocks off to cover. A great run by Hoyte but his cross was cleared.
A good opportunity for Gamst Pedersen who received a deep cross and was unmarked on their left, but Jens tipped his angled shot over for a corner. Some stupendous play by Robin who pulled a ball out of mid air with stunning control. Clichy stopped an elaborate Emerton run. Cesc was tripped and Styles gave Blackburn the free kick. An arm in the face on Thierry won nothing more than a free kick. More fine play from Arsenal in a flowing move as the Arsenal faithful observed ‘Sh*t ground no fans, sh*t ground no fans'. ‘Come to see the Arsenal, you've only come to see the Arsenal'. Great tackle by Clichy who continues to make progress with every game, as it has to be said does Justin. Tomas to Robin with a perfect ball but hit just a shade too hard. Derbyshire offside.
Clichy header clear a cross and Cesc made his only error of the game with an awful cross-field pass that gave Blackburn a chance. Robin was well advanced when he tussled with Neill to win the ball and was set for a clear run at goal but was cynically tripped by by the defender. A clear red card trip, but no, Rob Styles only produced a yellow. There were defenders back but none near enough to get a sniff of Robin's heels so this was an obvious goal scoring opportunity and Neill should have been sent off. There didn't look to be too much on but Kolo got himself one on one and Henry picked him out with a looped free kick. Kolo beat his man and powered a header home off the near post. The arsewipe in control of the replays refused to show the goal on Blackburn's rather pitiful little screen that badly lacks a clock. How petty is that? Petty and annoying if you've travelled all that way for yet another poxy 5.15 kick off. ‘Der, der, der we've got Kolo Toure, der, der, der he plays for Arsenal'.
Tugay replaced Mokoena at the break. In the second half Arsenal being Arsène's Arsenal didn't sit back with the sole purpose of defending a lead. Our game plan appeared to be to sit fairly deep, but not too deep and keep them busy at the back. In the event Blackburn just did not move fast enough, or cleverly enough to break us down. Hleb and Rosicky are now interchanging and combining with ease and a pretty well total understanding. With these two plus Cesc picking passes and moving around all over the place we're a hard team to defend against. I've complained in the past that with both Tomas and Alexander in the team we were altogether too lightweight, I was clearly wrong. The confidence our attack has in one another is at times amazing as they play balls into men, who are already seemingly closed down by one or more opponents, it's a joy to behold and often mesmerising.
A long shot was easy for Jens and later attempts to rough him up at corners only succeeded in providing him with what he likes best, an entire stand behind his goal slagging him off. Blackburn had a couple of chances. McCarthy managed to hit the side netting, Nonda who replaced Ooijer, headed over from a Pedersen cross. Derbyshire had another awful miss when on the far post he somehow managed to miss a volley and bounce it off his other leg for a goal kick. And that was it really the sum total of Blackburn's meagre goal attempts.
Arsenal played some sweet football and we played increasingly more sweet football as the match progressed. There were times when the men in blue couldn't get a sniff as the ball was whipped around from one red shirt to the next in a perpetual ballet of clever movement off the ball, brilliant control and amazing turns. At times it resembled what can only be described as controlled piss taking. There was also the odd blinding tackle by Gael, the stout resolve of headed clearances and the occasional chance for the ten men. As when a flowing move that included Rosicky, Hleb and Vane Persie was bent just past the far post with a low drive from the master craftsman who we know and love as Henry. Henry is getting his legs back and he grew in stature as the team grew in stature.
Our second goal was a classic. We cleared a Blackburn free kick on our left and Henry was the man wide and deep inside his own half who picked it up. He advanced at speed and then slowed with a procession of about four Blackburn defenders trying not to dive in. He jinked and teased and slowed and quickened with the ball seemingly glued to his toes. Ahead of him was just Cesc making the all-important run, it was at first a diagonal, then bending, then jinking run. It was two against six; it was two of the best players in the world, a proven genius and the best teenager on the planet against Blackburn's defence. The pass from Henry found Cesc in space, wonderboy controlled, made more space and time, kept his opponents at bay and waited for the perfect millisecond to set the ball on its way. Henry meantime continued his run past Cesc and found the right place at the right time. The ball that Cesc played looked even better from the upper tier than it did on the TV replays. There was one millisecond when it was on, only one ideal place it could be put and only one pace that would see it meet up with Henry in perfect harmony. All the criteria were met with an exquisite pass that only the best in the world could supply. Henry took it first time as his smooth stride matched the perfect ball. His shot was perfectly aimed at the top corner, hit with pace whilst both bending and dipping over Brad Friedel. Stupendous, the sort of goal that makes you glad you travelled all that way and sorry for those like John and Bernard who were too ill to make the trip. 0-2 to Arsenal and it was pretty well game over with getting on for twenty minutes to play. ‘Savage, Savage, what's the score?'
Three minutes earlier Flamini had replaced a tiring Van Persie who had, like every red shirt on the pitch worked seriously hard for his teammates. ‘Stand up for the Arsenal'. ‘Stand up if you're two-nil up'. Arsenal now motored through the remainder of the game knocking it about at will. Henry missed a golden opportunity to head home a third but I think the flag was up in any case. Henry was eventually subbed to an inevitable standing ovation on eighty minutes, followed by huge roars of approval for the oncoming Adebayor. Kolo was quite rightly given the captain's armband by Titi.
The dirty little oik that calls itself Tugay was despicably and deliberately late on Fabregas but the yellow card the noxious runt received was inadequate punishment. Cesc stayed down for a while and stretchers were poised, but he eventually limped off and returned fairly soon. ‘We've only got nine men' ‘We've got Cesc Fabregas' followed by the rather cutting ‘You've got Robbie Savage'. Deliberate handball by Blackburn but no card. Nor was there when a tussle for Cesc saw him hurled to the ground by use of an arm around his neck. A limp overhead kick by Savage was greeted with derision from the Gooners. Another shot into the home stand by a blue shirt was followed by Cesc being replaced by Djourou. Three minutes of added time saw Phillip save what looked to be a certain goal and Arsenal play out the match with yet more piss taking one touch football.
The standing ovation we gave the team at the end of the match was totally deserved, this had been a huge performance and a total team effort capped by a couple of great goals.