Understrength Rovers sunk
Ewood Park, Blackburn
13th August 2011
Today's match report is guest written by VBer Adam Quirk, who writes Rovers blog - Born Blue and White.
The first set of fixtures of a Premier League season is always eagerly anticipated, with supporters finalising their fantasy football team, purchasing the new shirts and frothing at the mouth over the new additions to their squad.
At Blackburn Rovers the mood of the fan-base has been difficult to gauge, with a handful of optimists trying to drown out the moans and groans of fans who believe that owners Venky`s have failed to put their money where their mouth is during their slightly arduous reign at the helm.
The owners have pocketed the significant turnover from the sale of Phil Jones to Manchester United without yet replacing him, whilst David Goodwillie seems unlikely to trouble the League`s top scorers, and Radosav Petrovic seems a talented yet cost-effective way of replacing target and former loanee Jermaine Jones.
Putting the summer ordeals to one side and it is very difficult to dampen the mood of excitement ahead of a new season, with Blackburn preparing to face Wolverhampton Wanderers. It was known beforehand that Petrovic had failed to secure his Visa in time, whilst Ryan Nelsen is currently injured and Chris Samba was also expected to miss out.
However eye-brows were raised when Gael Givet was an absentee (illness), leaving a makeshift centre back duo of Grant Hanley and midfielder Steven Nzonzi, whilst Mauro Formica and Jason Roberts got the nod in attack, leaving David Goodwillie on what was a very inexperienced bench.
Meanwhile Wolves were able to field Kevin Doyle and Jamie O`Hara after slight niggles, whilst new addition Roger Johnson spear-headed the defence following his move from Birmingham.
The game started at quite a frantic tempo considering it was the season opener, with Junior Hoilett almost opening the scoring when his scrambled effort was clawed away by Wayne Hennessey. However the home side where not to be denied and after 20 minutes Argentine international Mauro Formica capped his overall impressive display with a confidence-boosting goal. The playmaker latched onto a ball following some useful work from Jason Roberts before coolly stroking the ball past Hennessey, despite a touch from the Welsh goalkeeper.
However the lead did not last long, a couple of minutes in fact as the depleted and patched up Rovers rearguard were exposed, as Matt Jarvis sent in an inviting cross that was met by former Burnley striker Steven Fletcher. Afterwards the game fizzled out slightly, and the fans hoped that half-time would be a catalyst to a frantic second half.
And within a minute of the second half, a penalty was awarded. Matt Jarvis` tricky feet drew a foul from the ageing Michel Salgado, a decision that would have required little deliberation from referee Kevin Friend. Kevin Doyle saw his tame effort saved by Paul Robinson, however Wolves kept the play alive and eventually Stephen Ward lashed the ball into the bottom corner, sending the travelling Wolves fans into delirium.
The game was rather cagey in the second half, with Wolves setting up tactically to destroy rather than create chances at the other hand, and Rovers struggled to break down the organized rearguard. Substitute Ruben Rochina saw a blast from the edge of the box fly just past the post, otherwise there was little to excite the home faithful.
Steve Kean has never really won over the fans support in his time in charge of Rovers, and the side that finished the game perhaps showed his tactical naivety. A midfield of Rochina, David Dunn, Junior Hoilett and Nick Blackman seemed extremely lightweight, and the Rovers engine room were perhaps out-fought by the British tenacity of Stephen Hunt, Jamie O`Hara and Karl Henry.
Also with the Rovers squad looking extremely lightweight due to the injuries and player departures, Kean`s handling of El Hadji Diouf seems to have really come back to bite him, as personality issues aside, the Senegalese winger has talent, hard-work and excellent ball retention within his armoury and he would have been an excellent option to at least add to the inexperience on the bench.
Paul Robinson - 7
Michel Salgado - 4
Out-jumped for the first goal
Steve N'Zonzi - 4
The Frenchman`s positioning was extremely suspect, and he seemed to forget on one or two occasions that he was at the back, casually strolling around with the ball when a simple clearance would have been much more fitting
Grant Hanley - 5
Does have a slightly commanding aspect about him. However he doesn`t instil total confidence and seems rather error prone
Martin Olsson - 6
However his skill and crossing skills make him much more adept as a winger than a full-back
Junior Hoilett - 5
Brett Emerton - 5
Dave Dunn - 6
Morten Gamst Pedersen - 4
Offered nothing during open play, shirked any challenges and had little success from set-pieces
Mauro Formica - 8
Seemed to know when to pass and when to retain possession, scored a well taken goal and seems to have the attributes to be a success in the Premier League.
Jason Roberts - 5
Never looked like scoring
Ruben Rochina - 5
But also showed examples of immaturity in possession by squandering the ball when others were better positioned
David Goodwillie - 5
Came extremely close to a debut goal with a shot on the turn that whistled wide
Nick Blackman - N/A