Arsenal kept alive its Premier League soccer title chances by ending a three-game winless run with a 3-1 victory at Blackpool. Aston Villa beat Newcastle 1-0.
Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Eboue and Robin van Persie got Arsenal’s goals yesterday as the Gunners moved to within seven points of leader Manchester United having played one match fewer. Arsenal hosts United on May 1.
“We needed this, we needed to get a win,” Van Persie told Sky Sports. “There are seven games to play and it is up to us. We have it in ourselves and we have to prove it.”
Arsenal, which hasn’t won a trophy since the F.A. Cup in 2005, had drawn with Blackburn, West Brom and Sunderland in recent weeks. The league represents Arsenal’s final chance of silverware this season after it exited the F.A. Cup and Champions League and lost to Birmingham in the League Cup final.
“We went through a period of grief and then we had to stand up and show we had the mental strength to respond,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said at a news conference. “The team has done that remarkably well. We have promised ourselves to give everything until the end of the season.”
Relegation-threatened Blackpool put early pressure on the Gunners yesterday. The visitors’ defense included 41-year-old goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who’d come out of retirement to make his 200th appearance for the club. He replaced Manuel Almunia, who injured a knee in the warmup.
Arsenal took the lead against the run of play in the 18th minute, Van Persie crossing from the left and Diaby slotting the ball into the goal from close range.
Van Persie Chance
It was 2-0 three minutes later as Eboue burst through to slam a left-foot shot past Richard Kingson, who then saved from Van Persie. Diaby wasted another chance when he dithered on the ball after Arsenal sprang the home team’s offside trap.
Just on halftime DJ Campbell almost got a goal back, though Cesc Fabregas cleared off the line.
Blackpool scored in the 52nd minute through Gary Taylor-Fletcher, when referee Lee Mason waved play on after Lehmann brought down Campbell. Blackpool then had a penalty appeal rejected after Taylor-Fletcher tumbled under Laurent Koscielny’s challenge and Keith Southern failed to connect with a close-range header for the home side.
A counterattack down the right gave Arsenal a 3-1 lead with 14 minutes remaining. Theo Walcott accelerated down the wing and crossed to set up Van Persie for an easy finish.
Lehmann dashed out to block Campbell and maintain his team’s two-goal advantage as Blackpool tried to hit back.
“Sometimes life is about surprises and you never know what is coming,” Lehmann said of his return to action for Arsenal. “We are back in it and let’s see how far we can go.”
Manchester United leads the standings with 69 points as it seeks a record 19th English league title. Arsenal has 62, Chelsea 58, Manchester City 56 and Tottenham 53. United has played one more game than the other teams.
Blackpool stays 17th in the 20-team league, one point above the three-team relegation positions.
James Collins’s first-half header secured the win that took Aston Villa up to 14th, five points ahead of the drop zone.
Manchester City visits Liverpool today.