Blackburn all but secured there status in the Premier League after a hard fought victory over a nearly safe Pompeys side at a blustery Ewood Park.
The game wasn’t exactly Brazil v Spain but what it lacked in technique it made up for with sheer determination and the Blackburn performance in particular was a walking image of their manager.
Rovers were direct, tough in the tackle and difficult to break down – the stuff we used to be made of under Hughes. Yes Rovers will need some more flair next season, but all we need now is to stay in the league – and it is oh so nearly job done.
Blackburn are on the magic 40 points mark and with Newcastle and Middlesboro only able to muster 40 points if either win all their last 3 games and Hull able to reach 40 at best too… it would take a frankly extraordinary set of results to relegate Rovers.
The first half got off to a shabby start with both sides looking to use their tall, power forward to take the most direct route to goal, Crouch up front for Portsmouth looked very handy but lacked support where as Samba cut a clumsy figure but his nuisance value was off the charts!
Its fair to say that the game was even but as the half wore on, Rovers became more of a presence in the opposing half with Diouf and Grella adding strength to the midfield that has been the key missing ingredient from this season.
The goal came just after the half hour mark and was as a direct result of the Samba factor up front. Diouf arrowed a cross across the park, Samba jumped highest and chested the ball down and collided with James. The ball ran free as James and Samba hit the floor and would you believe it – Morten Gamst Pedersen was on hand to notch his FIRST goal of the season. The delight on his face was clear for all to see and for sheer effort alone in the last few games, if not his overall performances this season, he deserved it.
Rovers as a result looked more confident after getting the first goal and set about trying to add a second but it was Pompey who came closest. A long free kick knocked to edge of the area was headed on by Crouch and it skidded off the turf just wide to the relief of Robinson.
In the first 20 minutes of the second half it was all Rovers with Diouf and Tugay being the main outlets from midfield but the suprise factor was the neat touches and WORKRATE of one Bennedict Saul McCarthy up front. Some absolutely delightful flicks were wowing the Darwen end as he inter-linked with Diouf excellently.
It was as a result of the McCarthy flicks that a penalty was awarded near the hour mark for a senseless and needless handball from the otherwise decent Herman Hereideson. McCarthy stepped up and went against his usual side to wrong foot David James as Rovers went 2-0 up and the crowd went ballistic.
It was all a case of not do anything stupid to keep things safe but obviously as we all know, things are never that easy when you are a Blackburn Rovers fan. Jermaine Pennant was bought on and caused troubled down the Rovers left and his cross/shot was nearly converted by the on-rushing penalty offender Herman as he just missed a touch to reduce the defecit.
Then just for fun, referee Mike riley though he would level the penalty count up with 5 minutes to spare. Andrews was penalised for blocking a cross with his arm – in truth the ball did hit his arm but his arm was square behind his back and hadn’t moved. A very harsh call.
Luckily for Blackburn and Keith Andrews Pompey forward John Utaka thought that the penalty call was a harsh one too and decided to find the car park with the resulting spot kick much to the glee of the home fans.
That was Pompey’s chance to make it a tense finale but due to that scare going unpunished it was a fairly tame finish to a very competitive clash.
Rovers will be delighted that the job is more or less done, Pompey, who should also still be safe, looked very clever with the ball in the first two thirds of the pitch, but in truth lacked any major support to Crouch up top and rovers emerged relatively comfortable winners.
Nearly job done… the pain is nearly NEARLY over.
Robinson – 6
In truth very little to do. Claimed some good crosses and made a few standard saves. Dived the wrong way for the penalty but it didnt matter.
Andrews – 6
Looked shaky against the skillful Belhadj but did make some good runs forward. Unlucky for the penalty decision. On the whole a mixed bag of a performance.
Nelsen – 8
I was there yesterday and I only remember him losing one header all day. This relegation battle has bought out the very best in the captain.
Givet – 9
Truly awesome. Never put a foot wrong and showed a good touch. Didn’t waste a pass from the back either.
Warnock – 7
Reverted to his usual left back role and made some imperious runs down the left but gave the ball away a little but too much for my liking. Apart from that the usual reliable performance from the soon to be crowned Rovers player of the season.
Diouf – 7
Some great control and movement from Diouf. Linked up well with Andrews, Tugay and Benni. Some people think he has gone off the boil in the last few games – no he hasnt.
Grella – 6
Definitely looks like he needs some technique lessons from Tugay or something along those lines. However, his sheer strength and effort were great. Another one who was a tad guilty of giving the ball away a bit too much but made some vital tackles and broke up play.
Tugay – 8
Well done you legend. Some great passes and dovetailed with Grella well. He even made some good RUNS as well (I never thought I would say that).
Pedersen – 7
The epitome of a workmans performance. Still doesnt have that touch of class he usedto but he certainly put in the yards and for that he deserves credit. Good instincts for the goal as well.
Samba – Striker 3/Creating Havoc 11
He really is not a striker at all and his shot/touch and awareness showed that but he was a bonifide nuisance all day long. Campbell and Distin both ended up marking him and that left room for others. won a lot of headers and held up the ball well.
McCarthy – 8
Good god that man actually moves when he wanst to! he is still to heavy but he wanted to work for the team and some of his flicks and tricks were appropriate and well timed. Great penalty as usual and looked delighted.
Note to Benni – This is the side of you we want to see
Mokoena – 5
Came on to solidfy position in the game and did his job.