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Monday, Feb. 6, 2012

Van Persie hat trick helps get Gunners back on track


LONDON — Arsenal bounced back with style from its miserable run in the Premier League on Saturday, hammering beleaguered Blackburn 7-1 with Robin van Persie grabbing a hat trick to keep up his stunning form this season.

News photo
What a day: Arsenal's Robin van Persie (center) celebrates a goal with Thierry Henry and Yossi Benayoun on Saturday in London. Arsenal defeated Blackburn 7-1. AP

Substitute Thierry Henry also found the net at Emirates Stadium for his first league goal since returning to the club on loan as Arsene Wenger's team climbed provisionally into fifth place and within two points of Chelsea.

At the top of the table Manchester City rediscovered its attacking verve, beating Fulham 3-0 to maintain its perfect home record and keep Manchester United at arm's length in the title race.

Sunderland's impressive run under new manager Martin O'Neill continued with a 1-0 win at Stoke, while Wolverhampton Wanderers capitalized on the sending-off of Djibril Cisse on his home debut for Queens Park Rangers to rally to a 2-1 win and climb out of the relegation zone.

Bolton dropped into the bottom three with a 2-0 loss at Norwich, Swansea came from behind to defeat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 and bottom team Wigan held Everton to a 1-1 draw.

Arsenal had picked up just one point from its last four games to slump to seventh place and endanger its habitual spot among the Champions League positions, where the team had resided ever since Wenger joined the club in 1996.

However, the feelgood factor returned to the Emirates thanks to an attacking masterclass led by van Persie, who took his league-high tally to 22 goals.

Goals in the second, 38th and 62nd minutes moved him above fellow Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp into 10th place on Arsenal's all-time scorers list with 123 overall.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored twice — his first league goals for Arsenal — while Mikel Arteta and Henry also got in the act in the hosts' first league win in 2012 as Blackburn was punished for Gael Givet's sending-off for a two-footed tackle on van Persie with the score at 3-1.

"It's a horrible afternoon," said Blackburn manager Steve Kean, whose team's goal came when Morten Gamst Pedersen equalized in the 31st.

Wenger again praised van Persie, who he was thinking of resting for the game.

"When you feed him in the box, he is deadly," the Frenchman said.

Arsenal climbed above Newcastle and Liverpool in a four-way fight for the final Champions League qualification spot.

Countering increasing talk of the title jitters, big-spending City brushed aside Fulham with ease.

Argentina forward Sergio Aguero converted a penalty for his 15th league goal of the season and also set up strike partner Edin Dzeko as the league leaders battled through the heavy snow that afflicted the majority of games in the English program.

"It was important to win quickly after losing to Everton (on Tuesday)," Mancini said. "We started well and put pressure on them and I'm happy.

City has struggled for form and luck in January, losing to both Sunderland and Everton in the league and getting dumped out of both domestic cup competitions.

"If we want to win this league, we need to win lots of games here until the end. We can't think about United or Tottenham."

Fulham defender Chris Baird scored an own goal to compound the misery for Fulham, which was the first team to take points off City this campaign by rallying to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture in September.

Forest owner found dead


NOTTINGHAM, England — Nigel Doughty, the owner of English club Nottingham Forest who rescued the two-time former European champion from financial turmoil, died on Saturday. He was 54.

Forest, which currently plays in the second tier of English soccer, released a statement saying Doughty was found dead in the gym at his home in Skillington, a village in the central-eastern county of Lincolnshire.

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