Blackburn Rovers got what they deserved today after a lacklustre display against Aston Villa at Villa Park. Fabio Capello watched Villa dominate throughout and come away with a well deserved 4 – 1 win.
What started as a promising afternoon, with the chance to rise into the top half ended in disaster as Rovers conceded four goals against Villa and had club Captain Ryan Nelson sent off.
Villa`s form was exactly the same as ours leading into the match with a loss and two draws in their last three premier league games. Rovers beat Aston Villa 1- 0 in this fixture last season.
Blackburn lined up today with a defensive 4 – 5 – 1, which surprised me a bit. After our recent good attacking play this seemed like a step backwards for me. Santa Cruz was our lone front man, with Pedersen and Emerton on the flanks. Grella, Jermaine Jones and everyone`s favourite Keith Andrews played in the heart of midfield and our back four was a normally very solid combination of Salgado, Olsson, Nelson and Hanley.
It seemed to me that we were set up to play for the draw today, which at Villa away is not a bad thing, though with Villa`s recent form I thought that we may try and take the game to them?.how wrong I was.
Rovers kicked off the first half and after a lifeless start Aston Villa nearly made us pay. Ten minutes into the game Ashley Young fed a good through play into Bent whose shot was well saved by Paul Robinson this was a sign of things to come.
Throughout the first half Rovers were on the back foot, but to our credit we defended quite well. Nelson was producing good tackles to stop the likes of Pires from breaking through.
Rovers first shot came after 17 minutes, Pedersen and Andrews combined in the middle to give Olsson space to shoot, however his shot was wide of the mark.
Salgado started really well at right back, tackle after tackle he made on downing and Pires, but young Albrighton was getting the better of him by using his pace.
Blackburn then went on the attack, playing the ball out to Pedersen who whipped a dangerous ball in searching for Santa Cruz at the far post, the cross was headed away by Baker and the Villa counter attack was on, it ended with Jones bringing down Pires and earning himself a yellow card for his actions.
On the 25th minute came our best chance of the half so far, Pedersen took the corner and Ryan Nelson met the cross with a strong header, which unfortunately went over the bar.
he game was quite scrappy at this point, with most of the football played in our own half.
There was a penalty shout for Villa next as Hanley brought down Bent in the area, from where I was sat it did look like Hanley made contact, I`ve seen penalties given for similar challenges and we were lucky it was not given. Villa played on and the loose ball fell to Downing, who skied his shot.
Villa was dominating play and Rovers struggled to get the ball past the halfway line. Villa had another chance when Downing worked the ball inside finding Pires, whose shot went wide.
Next there was a dangerous free kick at the edge of the area for Villa after Olson caught Young. Downing whipped in the free kick only for the commanding Paul Robinson to come out and punch the ball away, taking out Baker in the process. Baker then went off with a head injury, Delph replacing him.
Another dangerous Villa attack followed, Albrighton beat Salgado round the outside and whipped a dangerous cross in, the ball came out to Pires who hit a powerful shot from 20 yards, Paul Robinson provided the heroics to keep Blackburn level.
Villa were really piling on the pressure at the end of the half and soon they had another chance. Pires had a 20 yard shot parried away by Robinson, the ball fell to Bent who was odds on to score, only for Robinson to be the hero again as he made an instinctive save to keep us in it.
Villa wanted to score before halftime and nearly did well the ball came to Walker who unleashed a powerful drive from 15 yards, Robinson saved well and the ball fell to Ashley Young who really should of scored, however his shot was well over.
Next came disaster from Pedersen, who had been playing well so far. Pedersen intercepted a pass only for the ball to go to Darren Bent who raced on goal, we were lucky. Bent hesitated for a second and Ryan Nelson made an inch perfect tackle.
Half time 0 – 0. After starting well Villa dominated from 25 minutes onwards. Little to write about Rovers going forward, we did well defensively so far, Hanley was looking ok and Nelson was on form. With Robinson showing exactly why he should be England`s number 1. Santa Cruz had little to do and was looking lonely up front.
At the start of the second half came our best chance so far, Rovers came out all guns blazing, Santa Cruz won the ball in midfield before charging forward and playing in Jones, whose shot was well saved by former Rovers legend Brad Friedel.
Sadly that was it from us.
What seemed to be a little pressure situation turned into disaster for Keith Andrews. Pedersen played it back to Keith, who failed to clear the ball, instead opting to show everyone his undoubted skill on the ball. Ashley Young won the ball and was immediately brought down in the area by (you guessed it) Keith Andrews, no doubt about it stonewall penalty to Villa.
Ashley Young stepped up for the Penalty and drilled the ball into the back of the net, sending Robbo the wrong way. 1 – 0 Villa.
Danger for Rovers soon followed after (yes him again) Andrews sloppy pass found Albrighton, who charged down the right hand side and whipped the ball in, his cross missed everyone and was well cleared by Nelson.
Villa dominated play and you just felt the second goal was coming, Villa didn`t disappoint. A series of corners lead to Villa`s second goal. The first corner was played short to Young who whipped it dangerously into the six yard box, Hanley headed the first one out for another corner.
The second corner went to Albrighton, who crossed into the 6 yard box, Keith Andrews got his head to it and sent it dangerously across the goalmouth and out for another corner.
The third corner came to Albrighton, who came inside and whipped a cross into the middle, Hanley instinctively tried to block it, only to send it into the back of the net. 2- 0 Villa.
A substitution then followed as Aussie Grella was taken off for the prolific Jason Roberts. And service starved Santa Cruz came off for Michael Corleone lookalike Nikola Kalinic
Rovers then seemed to turn off and Villa made us pay again. A foul in midfield by Nelson on Young lead to downing playing on and surging into the clear, his tidy left footed finish curled around Paul Robinson and nestled into the corner. 3 – 0 Villa. Nelson then got his first yellow of the game for the foul on Young in the build up.
Next came a rare chance for Rovers, Olsson was brought down on the left and from the resulting free kick we could of scored. Pedersen sent the free kick dangerously towards the back post, Hanley was stretching but could not reach it, a touch would of probably sent it in.
Albrighton was running the game down the right flank, twice he managed to cut inside in the space of five minutes, both attempts were saved well by Paul Robinson.
Next it was Young`s turn. He charged down the flank, cut inside then back outside before sending a dangerous cross/shot across goal, Bent couldn`t touch it to make it four.
Another penalty shout followed soon afterwards when Albrighton went down after a challenge from Salgado. Albrighton cut inside and sent for ball past Salgado, the referee was nearby and let play on, but I have seen them given before.
Pires then got a round of applause as he left the pitch for Petrov.
It`s safe to say that Andrews didn`t when he was replaced soon afterwards for the Zonz.
A rare goal for Rovers followed. Kalinic hit a powerful strike from 20 yards, the ball deflected wickedly off Richard Dunne and looped over over Fridel and into the ball of the net. 3 – 1 Villa.
Any hopes of a comeback were soon dashed when Ashley Young scored again. Downing took the ball down the right. Olsson backed off and Downing picked out Young who curled the ball home from the edge of the area.
Jason Robert`s idle Emile Heskey then came on for Darren Bent.
Kalinic almost scored again soon afterwards, Nikola Kalinic took a long shot from about 20 yards which went just inches wide, a great effort from the Croatian.
Soon after Heskey shows Jason Roberts how it is done. Petrov sent Downing down the right, his cross from the right fell to Heskey who missed an open net.
4 minutes stoppage time followed.
Ryan Nelson was then sent off in the 93rd minute. Young rushed past him and Nelson brought him down, earning him a second yellow card and a one match suspension.
Robinson – 8
Excellent game for a keeper who conceded four goals.
See star man.
Salgado – 5
He started well at right back but was soon caught out for pace time and time again by Albrighton.
Nelsen – 5
Made some great tackles over the course of the game and was unlucky to be sent off.
Brave to even be playing.
Hanley – 5
Scored an own goal. Looked very shaky after that and struggled to keep his cool.
Olsson – 6
Wasn`t as good going forward as he normally is, had a few shots off target.
Still operating at left back.
Grella – 5
Did he do anything this game?
Ah yes, got booked in the first half.
Emerton – 6
‘Sasman’ had some good input at times, I would like to see him play in the middle.
(Preferably ahead of Andrews or Grella!)
Jones – 6
Did a good job on the whole, made some good passes, got booked in the first half.
Andrews – 4
‘Irish Kaka’ made some sloppy passes throughout and a horrible mistake that lead to Villa`s breakthrough goal.
They’ll be on his back again will the boo boys.
Santa Cruz – 6
The one time he got the ball he played Jones through and we almost scored.
Needs more service.
Gamst Pedersen – 4
Confusing runs, poor movement and sloppy passing.
Must do much, much better. Frustrated his team mates.
Kalinic – 7
The Croatian came on and scored, and almost got a second, did his job well.
N’Zonzi – 6
Not much time to make an impact.
Kept it steady but couldn’t affect the game.
Same as N’Zonzi really.
Bought on to assist Kalinic.