Blackpool 1-3 Arsenal
Referee Lee Mason hit the headlines as Arsenal scraped to an edgy 3-1 victory over Blackpool to keep the title race alive.
The Gunners couldn't afford anything other than a win from the trip to Bloomfield Road after Manchester United's 2-0 victory over Fulham yesterday. There was drama though before kick-off as Jens Lehmann was drafted in late on to make his first appearance since his return to Arsenal after Manuel Almunia succumbed to injury in the warm up and the enforced change seemed to unsettle the visitors as Blackpool dominated the opening stages. Mason was soon taking centre stage after he failed to award a penalty when Laurent Koscielny felled Gary Taylor-Fletcher on the edge of the box, and Arsenal responded in the perfect manner. The Blackpool defence was wide open at Fulham last week and the gaping holes had not been plugged as Robin van Persie found acres of space on the left to drill the ball across the area for an unmarked Abou Diaby to tap home in the 18th minute. The game seemed as good as over just three minutes later as Emmanuel Eboue strode onto a Jack Wilshere through ball to drive beyond Richard Kingson and double the Gunners' lead. Blackpool continued to be opened up on a regular basis by diagonal passes from the Arsenal midfield but somehow they managed to keep the scoreline unchanged as the interval approached. Seasiders boss Ian Holloway clearly got his team pumped up at the break and they flew out of the traps to get themselves back in the game. Gary Taylor-Fletcher gave them hope as he covered from close in after the ball broke into his path following a strong looking challenge on DJ Campbell by the Gunners stand-in keeper Lehmann, who was lucky not to have seen red for upending the striker. The referee again failed to award a spot-kick two minutes later when Koscielny swept Taylor-Fletcher's legs away when well placed in the area. Blackpool continued to press and Keith Southern should have equalised moments later but somehow headed wide from four yards and he was made to pay as Arsenal clinched the three points in the 76th minute. The hosts had thrown bodies forward to force the equaliser and were caught on the break as Theo Walcott raced away from the defence to square for van Persie to slide home to settle the Gunners nerves. There was still time for Lehmann to deny Campbell and Ian Evatt but Arsenal held on to claim three vital points to keep their title dream alive, but the outcome has done nothing to ease Blackpool's relegation worries.