Blackburn Rovers continued their stunning home form from the last English Premier League season, with a howler from American Goal Keeper, Tim Howard, providing Nikola Kalinic a golden opportunity, striking from the 18 yard box into an open goal, with the early goal proving decisive as Rovers ran out 1-0 Victors.
In what was possibly a sign of things to come, Sam Allardyce deployed Phil Jones in the holding role in central midfield, with the tried and tested combination of Gael Givet, Ryan Nelsen, Chris Samba and Michel Salgado enforcing the defence. Morten Gamst Pedersen, El Hadji Diouf, David Dunn and Martin Olsson rounded out the midfield, whilst Nikola Kalinic was the lone man up front.
Things got off to a mixed start for the home outfit. Morten Gamst Pedersen played a neat lobbed ball over the top, with Martin Olsson springing the offside trap. However, the young Swede could not apply the final touch, lobbing over the rushing Time Howard, and well over the net. Dunn then pulled up only minutes into the clash, appearing to strain a hamstring. Last years player of the season, Steven Nzonzi came on as a early substitute for a devestated Dunny.
In what was a half of few chances, it was an error from the ever so reliable, Tim Howard, which created the golden opportunity for Blackburn. A loose header by El Hadji Diouf floated easily into the arms of Tim Howard. After clenching the ball, Tim then had what we are going to call, an English Number 1 moment, loosing grip of the ball. Unfortunately for Howard, the ball dropped into the path of Kalinic, who, with a neat swivel and volley, placed the ball in the bottom left corner of the net….1-0 Blackburn
Everton then decided to up the ante, with late inclusion Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta pulling the strings in midfield. 2 tame shots by Cahill failed to test Robinson, whilst Salgado was on the ball to prevent Cahill reaching a header on the far post. Louis Saha was next to try his luck, however, the man who has punished Rovers so many times in the past just couldnt find that last touch, again failing to test Robinson.
In what was really a battle of the midfield, neither team could really create that golden opportunity, as Rovers went in at the break, up 1-0.
Mama Diouf made his Rovers debut, replacing Kalinic at the 60th minute mark, and the young Senegalese international showed us exactly what he was all about, pace, pace and more pace. After troubling the Everton defence, Diouf almost sprung the offside trap, striking a shot which was saved by Howard, however the flag did go up.
Arteta tried his luck from distance, as did Saha, however they could not breach Robinson, who was having the simplest of days between the sticks. Steven Nzonzi could have wrapped the game up with 15 to go. A neat run by the effective El Hadji Diouf was followed by a superb stationary cross, with Nzonzi striking his header over the bar, unmarked from 8 yards out.
Late pressure came in the form of a Jagielka 20 yard bullet, however, Robinson was called into action for the first real time in the match, making a superb parried save, ensuring Blackburn continued their fine form at Ewood Park, and starting the season of with a bang.
Paul Robinson 8
Made a superb save when needed, and his delivery from free kicks was on the mark most of the time. Released the ball quickly when needed
Chris Samba 8
Captain Samba was as solid as ever, ensuring Saha, Cahill and Beckford never got a free shot at goal
Ryan Nelsen 9
Superb game from the Admiral. Held his own, countered well, and really seemed to enjoy his football
Gael Givet 7.5
Nothing fancy from Givet, but its what we have come to expect, held his position well, and making a few vital tackles
Michel Salgado 8
Showed all his experience on several occasions. What he lacks in pace he makes up in anticipation and awareness. The evergreen Spaniard looks a safe bet to hold his spot at right back
Phil Jones 7
Playing out of position, Jones held the midfield well. Whilst not playing the traditional defensive midfielder role, Jones managed to drop into defence when needed, whilst becoming a link between the defence and attack
Morten Gamst Pedersen 8
Looks like Gamst has been working on his long throws, they are longer and flatter then last season, which can only be a positive! He actually played well, getting involved with a few neat passes
Will be dissapointed, but lets hope there was not too much damage
El Hadji Diouf 7.5
Continued his fine preseason form with a good performance. Maintained width throughout the entire game, proving to be a neat outlet for a switch of play. Good delivery
Martin Olsson 6.5
Should of done better with his early opportunity, hardly sighted throughout the game, though didnt make any errors when called upon
Nikola Kalinic 8.5
A well taken goal which hopefully will give Nikola all the confidence in the world. We need 15 goals minimum from the Croatian, and a perfect start is what he needed
Steve Nzonzi 7
Would have been dissapointed not to seal the game with the open header, however held the midfield well
M B Diouf
Looks a nice little gem, worked hard, held it up well, hopefully can chip in with a few goals
Kind of an indicator of a few things when Jason Roberts, Vince Grella, Lars Jacobsen and Jason Brown arent on the bench. Could be on the way out???