Doom Descends on Rovers
22nd October 2006. 15:00
Rovers were never going to win this match and on forty-five minutes that sentiment of inevitably struck when David Bentley missed a clear one-on-one chance against Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Surprisingly the score was still poised at 0-0 at this point but the game had reached the stage where Rovers had done everything but score thanks to some suspect refereeing and woeful finishing.
The match started slowly and the first chance worthy of note fell to Morten Gamst Pedersen in the 12th minute. Just like in midweek against Wisla Krakow his acrobatically volleyed effort was devoid of technique, harmlessly rising over the bar.
Then came the first of a catalogue of controversial decisions from Mike 'the Grim Reaper` Dean. Incidentally, it would perhaps seem a little harsh referring to Mr. Dean as the bringer of death but the last time he refereed a Rovers match was against Sheffield United. We all know what happened there. His bizarre decisions that day proved to be the catalyst for Rovers` excellent form. I`m sure his equally bizarre decisions against Bolton will bring about a different kind of form.
He booked Robbie Savage, who will now miss Rovers` next match, for his first foul of the afternoon after an innocuous tackle on Nicky Hunt; who has been spending too much time with El-Hadji Diouf.
Nevertheless, Rovers were beginning to get a grip on the game. In front of a packed crowd, a record for this season, of 27,662, Rovers were moving the ball about on the slick surface with great aplomb. A number of balls into the box were causing Bolton plenty of problems, as were Gamst`s deliveries.
Rovers almost took the lead from their first corner. Gamst whipped the ball in and Andre Ooijer almost profited by some indecision by Jaaskelainen. The ball was hacked away and behind for another corner.
Rovers certainly weren`t showing any signs of a European hang-over like they had done on previous occasions against Man City and Wigan.
Then in the 20th minute Savage hit a wonderful free-kick from 25 yards over the wall only to be denied by a finger-tip save from Jaaskelainen. Rovers were dominant but Bolton was certainly threatening on the break.
Nicolas Anelka, yet to score for Bolton, was causing problems with his pace and movement. It was his centre that found Diouf in the area who headed against the post mid-way through the first half.
This prompted a spell of pressure from Bolton with Anelka pivotal in everything they created. Despite the pressure, Bolton failed to create anything worthy of note.
Then came the turn of Rovers to dominate proceedings until half-time. Great saves again from Jaaskelainen denied Savage and Gamst and an exquisite volley from Tugay, who was beginning to revel in all the space afforded to him.
From the ensuing corner Zurab Khizanishvili headed powerfully towards goal. The ball hit the back of Jaaskelainen and looked to have crossed the line before Gary Speed thumped it clear. No goal was given despite the protests of the Rovers players.
Rovers were to be denied again by the officials when Brett Emerton`s marauding run into the area was cynically halted by Diouf but Mike Dean waved play on. Rovers rallied and contrived to create the best opening of the match.
Emerton`s ball put David Bentley clean through but after he had steadied himself he meekly fired straight at Jaaskelainen. A sense of pathetic fallacy rained down on Ewood as dark clouds gathered over-head a sense of doom was felt by the Rovers faithful. It wasn`t going to be Rovers day, anyone could tell that now.
The second half got under way amidst the thumping of drums and vociferous chants of 'Mark Hughes` blue and white army` as Rovers attacked the Blackburn End.
The second half began as the first had ended, with Rovers dominating the opening 15 minutes.
Rovers were demonstrating all of the crisp passing and sharp movement that had become synonymous with the club in recent weeks. McCarthy illuminated his flawless skill with a sumptuous Cruyff turn in the six yard box. Once again Jaaskelainen came to Bolton`s rescue with a smart parry.
Then, just after the hour mark, the game went into 20 minute coma after the imposing figure of Bolton`s Basque general, Ivan Campo arrived unmarked to power a header past Friedel, giving Bolton a lead against the run of the play.
Rovers were stunned but everyone else had seen it coming since half-time. Whilst Mark Hughes tried to resuscitate a dejected Rovers side, Nolan went close with an excellent volley that produced a smart save from Friedel.
Just as it looked like the life-support machine would be turned off, heart beats began racing when Mike Dean finally awarded Rovers a penalty after dismissing two earlier, blatant penalty appeals.
Substitute Jason Roberts was once again fouled in the area after he had nipped in front of Quentin Fortune. It was Benni McCarthy who placed the ball on the spot amidst a furor of noise. Rovers sanguine support expected a goal.
However, Jaaskelainen dived to his left to parry a poor penalty away for a corner. From the corner mayhem broke loose in the form of a goal mouth scrabble, which exploded amongst a ruckus of players. Shots flew in, players were lunging everywhere and after Roberts coolly brought the ball down he was again fouled and again Dean pointed to the spot.
McCarthy shirked the responsibility this time and it was given to Roberts as he aimed to score his first Rovers goal. A flabbergasted Blackburn End watched in despair as Roberts did exactly what McCarthy had done and tamely give the ball to Jaaskelainen.
As the game boiled over Kevin Nolan was bizarrely sent off for dissent, although why he was complaining no-one will ever no. That brought an end to a steamy Lancashire Hot Pot, Rovers` form and confidence as Bolton left with another lucky smash and grab theft of three points.
The reverberations of this result will no doubt be felt through out the season. Rovers will have to work extremely hard now to pick themselves up and recover in time for the Chelsea match. A loss there too would certainly raise question marks over Rovers` prospects against West Ham next weekend, a team due a result. One can`t help but feel that result may come against Rovers.