Colin Kazim-Richards scored a 72nd minute winner to stun Arsenal and send Blackburn through to the FA Cup quarterfinals.
Blackburn were happy to remain on the back foot for much of the encounter, but their defense admirably held firm. Just as Arsenal were turning up the heat, Kazim-Richards provided an unconventional finish put the visitors ahead with their only chance of the contest.
Despite late drama in the Blackburn goalmouth, Arsenal succumbed to defeat to lower league opposition in a domestic cup competition for the second time this season after falling to Bradford in the Capital One Cup.
While this upset wasn’t on the level of that loss, the reaction of the Arsenal fans at the final whistle spoke volumes for the discontent surrounding the club.
With their Champions League encounter with Bayern Munich on Tuesday firmly in mind, Arsene Wenger decided to start with the important trio of Jack Wilshere, Sanit Cazorla and Theo Walcott all on the bench.
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The changes had a clear impact, with Arsenal displaying a desperate shortage of creativity in the final third throughout a lackluster performance.
For all their possession, there was little impetus going forward and, with Blackburn remaining solid, particularly early on, it was set pieces that appeared the likeliest avenue for a breakthrough.
Finally on 24 minutes one of their numerous corners came close to paying dividends. Tomas Rosicky whipped the ball in from the left and Abou Diaby got up well from eight yards but his header produced a fine save from Jake Kean going across to his left.
The young Blackburn goalkeeper was again called into action from a corner minutes later as Thomas Vermaelen’s header looped toward the corner, but Kean tipped it away.
With two minutes to go until the break, Arsenal created their first real chance form open play and really should have made it 1-0. Rosicky was always liable to be the player most likely to make something happen in the final third and there was no surprise that it was his perfectly weighted through ball that sent Gervinho clear into the area. Sadly for the home side, it is likely few Arsenal fans were surprised when the Ivorian dragged his shot wide of the post.
Despite the late excitement to close the half, the second period began in much the same manner as the first. Corner kicks were again looking Arsenal’s best route to a goal, but Diaby headed a good chance over from eight yards.
It wasn’t until midway through the half that Arsenal began to apply some pressure.
Rosicky again raised his head above the parapet and came as close as is possible to breaking the deadlock. The Czech midfielder was allowed time to turn the ball onto his right foot 20 yards from goal and cut across the ball with his shot to send it swerving away from Kean but agonizingly struck the underside of the crossbar and bounced away.
Moments later it was Rosicky’s ball that again got Gervinho away in the box, but Grant Hanley made a superb saving challenge.
Blackburn were holding on for the first time in the contest, and when Arsene Wenger brought on Wilshere, Cazorla and Walcott, it looked like it would be a long remaining 19 minutes for the visitors.
But Blackburn turned the script on its head almost instantly.
After a long ball was flicked on, Martin Olsson drove a fine shot from the left side of the box that Szczesny could only parry out in front of him to Kazim-Richards. The former Fernerbahce forward made poor contact with the ball, but it worked a treat as it bounced into the ground and in off the post.
As expected, Arsenal were belatedly able to put the Blackburn goal in peril in the dying minutes, but it proved in vain. The best chance came as Walcott headed over with two minutes remaining, while in the dying seconds, Giroud’s shot was somehow blocked before Arteta fired a shot the wrong side of the post.