BLACKBURN, England (AFP) - Emmanuel Adebayor hit a hat-trick as Arsenal warmed up for the start of their Champions League campaign by thumping Blackburn 4-0 on Saturday.
The Togo striker had begun the day without a Premier League goal to his name this season but ended it by taking home the match ball as Arsene Wenger's side coasted to victory at Ewood Park.
Arsenal never looked back after Robin van Persie opened the scoring in the eighth minute before an outstanding move led to Adebayor making it 2-0 on the stroke of half time.
Adebayor increased the London club's lead from the penalty spot in the 81st minute and then celebrated his hat-trick in the third minute of stoppage time.
It ensures that Wenger's side travel to Ukraine in good spirits for Wednesday's opening Champions League group game with Dynamo Kiev.
Despite signing a three-month contract on the eve of the game, there was no place for former England and Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler in the Blackburn team as Paul Ince made two changes to the side thumped 4-1 by West Ham on their last appearance on the Premier League stage.
Danny Simpson, on loan from Manchester United, replaced injured Holland defender Andre Ooijer while there was a home debut for Keith Andrews following his move from Milton Keynes Dons last month.
This was the first of three successive away games for Arsenal yet Wenger opted against resting any of his big names ahead of their midweek trip to eastern Europe.
Despite his hat-trick heroics for England three days earlier, Theo Walcott had been widely tipped to start the match on the bench.
But he was promoted to the starting line-up in place of injured French midfielder Samir Nasri.
Walcott had teased and tormented the Croatia defence in Zagreb and the 19-year-old displayed his box of tricks as he teed-up Van Persie to open the scoring in the eighth minute.
He held off a number of challenges before releasing the ball for the Dutch striker to fire beyond Paul Robinson, Van Persie's third goal in his last two Premier League outings.
Van Persie buried a great chance into the side netting after a super 29th minute move involving Brazil midfielder Denilson and Adebayor before lashing a 41st minute effort wide after being picked out by the lively Walcott.
This was not quite a vintage performance by Wenger's side yet the build-up to their second goal at the end of the first half, which sealed Arsenal's first away win of the campaign, was simply breathtaking.
Arsenal's players completed 27 successful passes before the unmarked Adebayor headed home Denilson's cross.
Blackburn had their chances, Roque Santa Cruz and Brett Emerton both going close, but the home side lacked Arsenal's clinical finishing.
Robinson was beaten for the third time after referee Mike Dean pointed to the penalty spot in the closing stages following Stephen Warnock's foul on Emmanuel Eboue, Adebayor doing the rest.
With Arsenal in complete control, Wenger gave Jack Wilshere his moment in the spotlight. Aged 16 years and 256 days, Wilshere becomes the youngest player in Premier League history after replacing van Persie in the 83rd minute.
And the youngster was able to celebrate with his team-mates as man-of-the-match Adebayor completed the rout deep into stoppage time with a close range finish.
|9||R. Santa Cruz|
|Coach: P. Ince|
for J. Roberts 69'
for Morten Pedersen 69'
for D. Simpson 74'
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