Blackburn Rovers have booked their quarter final spot in the Carling Cup after beating Sunderland 2-1 at a sparsley populated Stadium of Light on a bitterly cold evening.
Rovers boss Paul Ince made seven changes to the line up that got beat by Chelsea on Sunday and Ince was not scared to blood some of the fringe players. Andy Haworth from the academy made his debut and Aaron Mokoena, Keith Treacy, Zurab Khizanishvilli and Robbie Fowler were all handed starts, very much a second choice line up. However, the bench was crammed with potential – Roque Santa Cruz, Ryan Nelsen, Carlos Villanueva and Stephen Warnock were amongst the subs, so hardly a weak back up.
However, there was to be a shock as soon as Ince named his line up, Keane then revealed his hand – a near full strength line up! Ince himself has admitted since that he ‘almost had a heart attack’ when he saw the line up Roy Keane has picked – Ince was expecting several youth players in there and also Kenwyne Jones not to be playing, he was.
For the first ten minutes Rovers were on the back foot as Sunderland, themselves on something of a bad run, pressed forward with impressive Jones and Cisse looking to get in the box whenever possible.
Two times in the first half Robinson was called upon to pull off excellent saves – one in particular, a point blank header from Kenwyne Jones was truly awesome.
The remainder of the second half however, was a midfield battle that Rovers controlled, however they Blackburn only created half chances. The best of these was the hard working Keith Treacy’s effort that looped just wide of Fulop’s post.
The second half was a much more fast paced affair as Rovers and Sunderland kicked on in search of a winner to avoid extra time. Rovers themselves looked full of purpose but were lacking that killer touch with Fowler not providing much of an outlet and Matt Derbyshire restricted to the channels.
Cue the returning Roque Santa Cruz.
Two minutes after his introduction, Blackburn took the lead. On 64 minutes a cross came in, Chris Samba, who ahd stayed up from a corner rose tallest to flick on and santa came in on the sleigh to give the Blue and White army a 1-0 advantage.
6 minutes later and it was 2-0. Matt Derbyshire bursted down the right, flung in a wicked ball that caused panic in the Sunderland defence and the ball cannoned into the net of the unlucky Phil Bardsley via Martin Fulop’s right hand.
However, Rovers then committed the cardinal sin of switching off. Ince hopefully laid into the boys as straight from kick off the ball was launched up field, it landed at Jones’ feet and he scored from outside the area low to Robinson’s left.
However, despite some tentative moments, Blackburn hung on to pick up a win. Rovers played better against Villa and West Brom and didn’t win, so it was hardly vintage stuff. But Ince can be proud that a largely second string outfit beat a largely first team Sunderland team.
Sunderland have a quick chance for revenge though – we play them at Ewood on Saturdayin the EPL.
Paul Robinson – 8
Some excellent saves and commanded the area well. Gets better with every game.
Danny Simpson – 7
A very good outlet down the right. Was a lot more adventorous going forward last night and defended well enough.
Zurab Khizanishvilli – 8
A very well done to you sir.
Chris Samba – 7
Set up the Santa Cruz goal and otherwise made very few mistakes. Good work King Kong.
Martin Olsson – 6
Steady as she goes. Didn’t do a great deal to make a massive impression on the game but didn’t shirk a tackle and offered good width on the left.
Aaron Mokoena – 6
Did very little wrong but his first touch was not good at all. Offered some good presence in the centre of midfield though and helped Tugay out as well.
Tugay – 7
Gave away a few silly fouls but was as usual masterful with the ball at his feet and kept things ticking over very nicely.
Andy Haworth – 6
Looked purposeful on debut. Has pace, gets at people and uses his body well. Granted, a bit rough round the edges but he didn’t look out of place. One for the future.
Keith Treacy – 7
Looked good on the left hand side. Very workman like and does offer a different alternative to Pedersen. Was unlucky with a few efforts but he had a good game.
Robbie Fowler – 5
Not too good I am afraid. Looked off the pace and didn’t really threaten, come on Fowler – lose some weight and get to shape first.
Matty Derbyshire – 8
Dynamite cross for second goal, never stopped running and very lively. Had a productive evening and has put himself in the frame for a start on Saturday.
Stephen Warnock – 6
Industrious when introduced as a sub for Treacy in the second half, kept things simple and used his pace to good effect.
Roque Santa Cruz – 7
The big difference – before he came on Rovers looked rudderless up top but as soon as he came on we looked like we couldn’t miss. Good to have you back.
Little chance to make an impact but did show some good touches.
Paul Ince – 6. Mixed bag las night.
Pros – His subs made a big difference, not just in the sense of who he bought on but also in the timing of them and for that he should take credit. Furthermore, he showed he isn’t scared to use the youngsters.
Cons – He underestimated Keane’s mind games and team selection. Luckily we got the result we needed as the players fought for him but lets toughen up on the physcological side of things eh Paul?
Saturday’s Game At Ewood
No two games are the same. Sunderland will be looking for revenge and we need to be wary of that. Expect the big guns to return.