Arsenal hit back to thrash Blackburn; Man United held

LONDON: Arsenal fell behind twice before hitting back to beat Blackburn 6-2 on Sunday and stay just behind the leaders in the Premier League title race.

Although goals by Steven Nzonzi and David Dunn threatened an upset at the Emirates Stadium, the Gunners replied through Thomas Vermaelen, Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin before half time. Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner added three more in the second half for Arsenal’s fifth victory in seven games. Walcott was making his first appearance of the season.

Rovers stunned the Arsenal fans by taking the lead through Nzonzi’s looping header in

the fourth minute from a

long range free kick. It was

the first goal Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone had conceded in 359 minutes.

Vermaelen equalised in the 16th minute with a low, left foot shot from the edge of the area but Blackburn regained the lead when David Dunn’s shot took a deflection off William Gallas and beat the goalkeeper at the near post.

Van Persie made it 2-2 with a low left foot shot and Arshavin scored the third with an angled shot from Fabregas’ pass in the 37th minute. Fabregas scored Arsenal’s fourth with a left footer from the edge of the area and Walcott, who had just entered the game, finished a well-worked move with a right footed shot in the 75th. Bendtner added the sixth with a minute to go with a 18-yard drive.

On Saturday, Manchester United salvaged a stoppage-time 2-2 draw against Sunderland thanks to an Anton Ferdinand own goal, and Portsmouth secured their first points of the season by beating Wolverhampton.

United had been facing their first Old Trafford loss to Sunderland in 41 years until the brother of their defender, Rio Ferdinand, deflected Patrice Evra’s off-target strike into the net. Sunderland had been reduced to 10 men in the 85th minute when former United player Kieran Richardson was shown a second yellow card for kicking the ball away in frustration after referee Alan Wiley had blown for a free kick. The visitors led inside seven minutes through Darren Bent’s low strike, but United striker Dimitar Berbatov equalised early in the second half with a perfectly executed scissor kick.

Kenwyne Jones headed Sunderland back in front in the 58th when goalkeeper Ben Foster failed to deal with a high ball into the box.

Portsmouth’s 1-0 victory over Wolves snapped a run of seven straight league losses and will help to lift the gloom at the club, whose players’ wages went unpaid this week and whose owner was hospitalised for a kidney stone operation at a time when the club is deperately trying to secure funding.

After on-loan midfielder Hassan Yebda’s header clinched the win, manager

Paul Hart said owner Sulaiman al-Fahim will be paying

the players on Monday and said “new investment” is expected in the coming days. While the south-coast team’s players will now also hope to receive win bonuses, they remain in last place, a point behind West Ham, which has played two games less.

Tottenham, who have recovered this season to the extent that the team is in the top four, came from behind twice at Bolton to earn a 2-2 draw. Despite Wigan inflicting Chelsea’s first loss of the season last weekend, Roberto Martinez’s side lost 2-1 at lowly Hull. Burnley beat Birmingham 2-1 to stay unbeaten at Turf Moor since being promoted.

Fergie lashes out at ‘unfit’ referee

MANCHESTER: Sir Alex Ferguson launched an extraordinary attack on referee Alan Wiley after Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Sunderland, claiming he wasn’t fit enough to officiate at the highest level.

Ferguson was unhappy with how United had performed but he saved his greatest ire for the referee in a 60-second rant where he outlined that he believed his side deserved more time after their equaliser. But Football Association chiefs are likely to take a dim view of his comments — particularly his opinion that Wiley booked players just so he could catch his breath. “I was disappointed by the referee I must say,” Ferguson said. “He didn’t add any time on for the goal we scored. He blew after four minutes and two seconds and there was another 30 seconds. He actually walked after the second goal needing a rest. He just wasn’t fit enough for a game of that standard.” — AFP