Arsenal 2 Blackburn Rovers 0

Arsenal moved five points clear of Manchester United and a massive eight points ahead of Chelsea as they scrapped their way to a 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers.

The Gunners got off to the best of starts when Philippe Senderos opened the scoring after just four minutes.

The defender shook off the attentions of his marker to rise highest to meet Eduardo's precise corner with a powerful header that left Brad Friedel and the two Blackburn defenders on the line powerless, as they watched the ball hit the back of the net.

Friedel was on hand to deny the Gunners a second after 22 minutes when he came out well to save from a Mathieu Flamini shot after the French midfielder was put in on goal by a clever headed pass by Cesc Fabregas.

The latter had been asked to operate on the right by Arsene Wenger who was left short due to injuries to Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott, as well as the absence of Emmanuel Eboue who had not yet returned from the Africa Cup of Nations.

William Gallas came close on 28 minutes when his goalbound shot from the left side of the visitors' area was deflected for a corner.

Arsenal's opportunities in the opening half were limited from then on and, in fact, Blackburn began to get a foothold as the Gunners began to give the ball away to cheaply too often.

Mark Hughes' side should have equalised on 36 minutes after Brett Emerton's cross from the right skimmed off the top of Benni McCarthy's head with just Jens Lehmann to beat from four yards out. Even then the ball found the head of the diving Roque Santa Cruz, whose header flashed wide.

Santa Cruz should have done better five minutes before half-time when he slid in to meet Bruno Berner's cross from the left, but he got too far under the ball and sent the effort high over Lehmann's bar.

The Gunners came close almost immediately after the re-start when Alexander Hleb took a rare shot that cannoned back of the right upright with Friedel well beaten.

Emmanuel Adebayor, who had been relatively quiet, showed a good turn of pace to accelerate on to Fabregas' pass into the right side of the area before hitting a low drive that the Blackburn keeper got down well to.

Adebayor was then denied by Friedel twice in quick succession. The first time was on 74 minutes when he was found by Gael Clichy on the left side of the area.

The Togo striker was clearly offside, but play was allowed to continue and his shot was only half blocked, but their was no red shirt available to turn in the rebound.

Four minutes later the American goalie saved again, this time from an acute angle with the ball being directed to safety. Hleb was the next to be thwarted by the stopper when his 20-yard swerving dig was well parried in the 80th minute.

Fabregas should have scored in the 83rd minute when the Gunners broke after the ball was given away by Blackburn in midfield.

The visitors appeared to recover well, but then the quick feet of Hleb carved out an opening, before feeding Fabregas who had time to pick his spot but instead sent the ball over the bar.

The Gunners sealed their victory to draw further clear at the top of the table in the first of two minutes of injury time when the Gunners broke from midfield.

Fabregas sent Hleb away on the right flank with a pin-point crossfield pass. Hleb then accelerated into the Blackburn area before slipping a pass to Adebayor, who in one movement knocked the ball up in the air with one foot before slamming home a close-range shot with the other.

It wasn't a classic performance from Arsene Wenger's side, but the three points could prove so valuable at the end of the season.