Mon, Feb 27, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Gunners continue to misfire in league action


Arsenal lost 1-0 at Blackburn on Saturday to slip to sixth in the English Premier League and dent its chances of qualifying for next season's Champions League.

Arsenal lost away from home for the eighth time in 14 domestic games, four days after winning 1-0 at Real Madrid in the Champions League -- its fourth European away win this season.

"I'm very sad because I don't think we deserved to lose this game," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "For maybe five or six minutes in the first half we suffered a little bit, but overall we were always on top of the game but we couldn't score.

"We lacked a little bit of mental sharpness maybe because of Tuesday night but overall we gave absolutely everything physically until the last second of the game," he said.

Blackburn swapped places with Arsenal in the standings, jumping a place to fifth. The Gunners need to finish fourth or higher to qualify for the Champions League next season -- unless they win this season's edition.

Blackburn moved to 43 points in the standings -- three fewer than fourth-place Tottenham and two more than Arsenal -- through Morten Gamst Pedersen's 18th-minute goal. He sidefooted a cross from Craig Bellamy but was substituted soon after with an injury sustained when he fell after scoring.

Also Saturday, Chelsea beat Portsmouth 2-0 to extend its lead atop of the English Premier League to 15 points. In other matches, Newcastle beat Everton 2-0, Birmingham beat relegation rival Sunderland 1-0, and Aston Villa drew 0-0 at Charlton.

The Blues recovered from Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League loss to FC Barcelona with goals at Stamford Bridge through Frank Lampard and Arjen Robben.

Chelsea assistant manager Steve Clarke said tactical substitutions made the difference.

"We took a risk, going three at the back and four up front, but when you bring on players of their quality you expect them to have an impact in the game," Clarke said.

"Thankfully for us that's what happened," he said.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho didn't to speak to the media after the match.

Lampard gave Chelsea the lead after 65 minutes with a low shot from just inside the area, and Robben scored 13 minutes later from Eidur Gudjohsen's pass.

At St. James' Park, Nolberto Solano scored both goals for Newcastle.

The Peruvian slid home a cross from Charles N'Zogbia in the 64th minute and added the other goal in the 76th. It was Newcastle's fourth win in five matches under caretaker manager Glenn Roeder and ended Everton's seven-match unbeaten streak.

Birmingham took the lead in the 39th when Emile Heskey headed in a free kick by Jermaine Pennant. Birmingham stayed 18th, above Portsmouth and last-place Sunderland, but it is now just three points behind West Bromwich Albion and a place out of the relegation zone.

Today, Liverpool hosts Manchester City, Fulham is at Bolton, and West Bromwich Albion plays Middlesbrough. Manchester United plays Wigan in the League Cup final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff -- the first title to be decided this season.

Gretna became the first second-division side to reach the Scottish Cup semifinals since 1982with a 1-0 win over St. Mirren.

Hibernian and Hearts also reached the final four, while Hamilton and Dundee will need a replay to determine who takes the last semifinal spot after a 0-0 draw.

Gretna scored through Kenny Deuchar in the 73rd minute. Gretna leads the second division, while St. Mirren is top of the first division.

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