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Arsenal 1 Rovers 0

20 September 2017

Rovers fell to a narrow defeat at Premier League giants Arsenal, but can hold their heads high after a battling performance in defeat.

And with a number of chances created against a defence marshalled by Germany international Per Mertersacker, there are plenty of positives for Rovers to take into their Sky Bet League One campaign.

Darren Ferguson made two changes from Sunday’s defeat to Scunthorpe United, with John Marquis and Andy Williams making way for Jordan Houghton and Alfie May to start at the Emirates Stadium.

It was Rovers who had the game’s opening chance within the first minute, though. Straight from kick-off the ball found its way to Rodney Kongolo, and his strike from the edge of the area was dealt with comfortably by David Ospina in the Gunners’ goal.

The hosts though had a strong forward line, and immediately Arsenal caused problems for the visitors.

Theo Walcott was first to test Ian Lawlor in the Rovers goal, as he got down low to prevent the England winger from opening the scoring.

Two minutes later it was Alexis Sanchez who next went close for the hosts, with his chipped effort going just wide of Lawlor’s far post.

The returning Jack Wilshere was involved in the Gunners’ next attack, as his ball into the box was met by Olivier Giroud who acrobatically hit the crossbar with an overhead kick as Arsenal started to show their class.

Rovers did get another chance to conjure up what would be a surprise opener at the Emirates, however James Coppinger’s volley was dealt with by Ospina, before the ball was brought back for a previous foul by Alfie May in the build-up.

It was the hosts though that did get the opener though, and it was the added quality in the Arsenal frontline that helped them get the breakthrough.

A lovely ball over the top from Wilshere was met by Walcott, who took a touch to set himself before clipping the ball Lawlor to give the Gunners the lead.

After the goal though, Rovers did settle down and managed to earn them spells good periods of possession, much to the delight of almost 5,000 Rovers fans who had made the trip down.

Rovers were next to go closest as they now went in search of an equaliser, as May won an aerial battle with Per Mertesacker, the ball fell to Kongolo who then fed the ball back to May who was in space in the box.

May though could only find the side netting and Rovers went into the break behind, but despite being behind, the visitors would be happy with the start they had made at the Emirates.

The action continued after the break, with some lovely end-to-end football being played out at the Emirates.

From a Rovers free-kick down the other end, an interception by Wilshere saw him release Giroud, who’s cross field pass was met by Walcott who found himself one-on-one with Lawlor.

Walcott, however, lifted his shot over the Rovers’ keeper and Rovers were let off once more by their hosts.

May was next to try and get an equaliser for Rovers, a ball over the top from Blair was chased down by the striker, but Ainsley Maitland-Niles got back just in time to deny Rovers a goal.

Arsenal had their first chance of the second half through youngster Reiss Nelson, a ball across from Sanchez was met by the winger, but Lawlor got down well once more and was equal to the shot.

Rovers substitute Marquis was immediately involved in the action moments after coming on, playing a neat little one-two with Kongolo, but he could only scuff his shot over Ospina’s crossbar.

Rovers were growing in confidence as the game wore on, and increased pressure from another substitute, Liam Mandeville, saw the visitors almost break through once more.

Mandeville worked his way down the left-hand side, managing to get shot off that was deflected around Ospina’s post and out for a Rovers corner.

The resulting corner was swung in by Mandeville, and the ball was met by the towering Matty Blair, but once more the Columbian in the home goal was able to deny Rovers an equaliser and tip the ball over the bar.

Andy Butler was then forced to charge down a powerful effort by Wilshere as the Gunners looked instead to extend their lead but to no avail.

One last chance came through Tommy Rowe, but it was the Gunners who ran out winners at the Emirates, however the Rovers players can hold their heads up high after a valiant performance at one of Europe’s elite.

Up next at the Keepmoat Stadium for Rovers is Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday September 26 - 7:45pm kick-off. Tickets for this match are available from the Club Doncaster Box Office, by calling 01302 762 576 or online via 

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