By David Alexander
Arsenal cut the gap between them and Manchester United to a single point - but
again red cards tainted the evening.
How Tring referee Graham Poll saw Martin Keown commit two bookable offences, only he will know.
The game was later evened up when Keith Gillespie followed Keown down the tunnel,
but Dennis Bergkamp's strike had by then won us the game and that was all that
Afterwards, Arsene Wenger accepted Poll's decision. He said: "I don't like to
judge the referee but he did what he had to do. The most important decision for
us was with Martin Keown and it was right.
"Keown had an unfortunate reaction for the second booking and had to get a yellow
card. He should not have reacted."
But Wenger admitted the Gunners had deserved the win. He added: "I was pleased
with our performance. We kept going and just showed how much we could dominate.
We could not finish them but we did not give up and never gave a goal away.
"Sometimes in games like this you can win 4-0 and sometimes 1-0 and we are still
there. It was just important we win this kind of game."
In a scrappy opening, the Gunners almost took the lead after ten minutes. Patrick
Vieira deftly turned Lee Carsley, fed the ball to Dennis Bergkamp and he in turn
found fellow Dutchman Marc Overmars.
It looked perfectly set for Overmars to shoot towards his favoured near-post, but
he decided to square the ball to Kaba Diawara and his shot was blocked by Darren
Vieira almost did open the scoring with a low volley after Lee Dixon had played
on Ray Parlour's corner.
But it was not all one way, with Chris Sutton volleying just wide.
Still Arsenal maintained the pressure, determined to take the lead sooner rather
When Parlour's low cross was headed back across goal by Nelson Vivas -
showing how much he has adapted to the English game - Tony Adams should
have done better than to sky the ball.
Diawara then blasted low at Rovers keeper John Filan after good work again by
Bergkamp and Overmars.
This was a game we totally dominated, but had little to show for all our
possession and chances.
There was a party-piece from Nigel Winterburn, who skipped past a couple of
challenges on the left before Vieira eventually shot low.
But the deadlock was finally broken three minutes before the break. Blackburn
looked to be set for a dangerous counter attack from an Arsenal corner when
Bergkamp's first effort from the free kick - with his right foot - flew into the
wall and he hit the ball into the back of the net with relish with his other foot.
We started the second half much as we finished the first, Filan tipping a Parlour
volley over, Adams' header blocked and a Vieira header scrambled away.
Still we continued to dominated without ever getting the cushion of a second strike.
The game was reduced to a farce 20 minutes from the end. Martin Keown, already
booked for an innocuous scuffle with Ashley Ward, seemed to have done nothing
when he intercepted the ball from Sutton.
But Poll decided the defender had lashed out and sent Keown off. It will go down
as another black mark on the Gunners' copybook.
Poll then started booking players at will, a total of ten names going in the
book, including Gillespie twice for protesting after he brought down Bergkamp in
Rovers manager Brian Kidd admitted he had no idea why the decision had been made.
The subsequent penalty would have given us the cushion we desperately needed and
it would have been a travesty if Arsenal had conceded a late equaliser - but
Blackburn never had the quality to do that...