A SECOND-HALF fightback inspired by two-goal Lewis Mansell could not stop Blackburn Rovers from losing 3-2 at Arsenal in their first Under-21 Premier League Division Two match of the year.

The Gunners, featuring fit-again club captain Mikel Arteta, opened the scoring in the sixth minute after Jeff Reine-Adelaide capitalised on a loose ball in the box.

And they would have scored again four minutes later had the post not denied Julio Pleguezuelo.

Rovers rattled the woodwork themselves in the 31st minute through returning striker Dean Rittenberg, who has been on loan at Chorley.

But Arsenal doubled their advantage in the 58th minute with Donyell Malen making no mistake after Ryan Crump saved from Reine-Adelaide.

Malen returned the favour four minutes later as he cut the ball back for Reine-Adelaide to notch his second goal of the game.

Four minutes after that Mansell beat Ryan Huddart at the second attempt to reduce the deficit.

And the in-form striker, who has now netted six times in five starts for the under-21s, set-up a frantic finish when he burst through to score.

But Rovers, who have allowed defender Mark Edgar to leave for Coleraine in his native Northern Ireland, could not force an equaliser.