Blackburn Rovers battled to another two goal win and their second clean sheet in succession at home to Sunderland on Tuesday night.
Blackburn thoroughly deserved a 2-0 win against a Sunderland side with vital injuries and suspensions, most notably Stéphane Sessègnon.
Yakubu was straight on the offensive in the first minutes, as he found himself through on goal with only Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to beat. Yakubu tried to place his shot past Mignolet, but a last-ditch slide from Phil Bardsley scuppered Yakubu’s attempt, clearing it off the line.
Kyrgiakos was given the task of handling Yakubu, tussling with him on the edge of the box and giving away a free kick, which Pedersen put across goal for a Blackburn player to just touch into the goal – a touch that never came. Kyrgiakos again challenged Yakubu whilst clearing a cross, and took a bang to the head, resulting in a nasty looking cut above his eyebrow.
The crowd was very somber, with very few signs of life in all corners of the stadium, but with the Blackburn fans appearing much happier about what they were seeing.
Hoilett and Yakubu were again the problematic players for the opposition, as with Wolves in the previous game last week. And, along with Martin Olsson, Sunderland were struggling to keep up after their FA Cup tie with Everton at the weekend, but the finishing was poor from Blackburn in the first half, which was dominated by them, with some seven shots on goal to Sunderland’s zero.
Mauro Formica was also enjoying himself out on the right wing – his natural position – and found a cross sit up perfectly for a sweet left-foot volley, which forced Mignolet into a fantastic save to his right.
Then, the breakthrough for Rovers. And again, Morten Gamst Pedersen turned assistant with his long throw-in, gliding it through the air. Mignolet flew out to swat it out, but made a hash of it, leaving Hoilett to smash home from 12 yards through a crowd of players.
One of Sunderland’s few chances came as Frazier Campbell found himself through with the ball after a long-shot from Bardsley is deflected into his path, but his run was offside, and he managed to scuff the shot anyway. Sunderland seemed to be pushing for the equaliser and almost made it 1-1 with an excellent through-ball from Bridge to McClean, who was easily Sunderland’s best player. He powered the ball across to Bendtner with the goal at his mercy, but a stunning last-ditch tackle from one of the Martin Olsson stopped the ball going in the goal.
Dong-Won Ji came on for Fraizer Campbell in the 71st minute, with Yakubu drawing another foul from Kyrgiakos a moment later. The free kick, central and on the edge of the area, was blazed just wide from Pedersen, who took a yard to run up and smash the ball. Mignolet was relieved to see that wide.
Bradley Orr came on for the lively Mauro Formica in the 80th, as Blackburn looked to take the three points and sure up the defence, but one moment of class from McClean on the left found Dong-Won Ji and an open goal, but the South Korean could only scupper his chance at an equaliser, and give Blackburn a massive let off with 9 minutes to go.
As Blackburn looked to lock down and keep their one goal advantage, Orr turned provider with a stunning cross on the right side, which found Yakubu, unmarked, majestically heading home into the bottom corner to make the 3 points a dead certainty. Yakubu’s 15th goal of the season was celebrated with the removal of his blue and white jersey, to display a “Pray 4 Muamba” shirt – a tribute to the young Bolton player in hospital after his cardiac arrest against Tottenham on Saturday.
Another vital 3 points for Blackburn sees them now 6 points above the relegation places, and with some much needed form off the back of two 2-0 wins. Those clean sheets will do wonders for the players and the team, as well as the fans, and Blackburn can be proud at how poor they have made Wolves and Sunderland look. If they continue this, seemingly spurred on by the appointment of Eric Black as assistant manager, they will be fine.
Sunderland, however, were here for the kill. They showed up in parts of the match, and McClean was outstanding for them, but it seemed that this was one game too far for them after Everton, and you have to question what they will have left for the home match against Queen’s Park Rangers.
NB: Blackburn’s fixture against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium will go ahead, after Blackburn extended an offer to postpone the game in light of Fabrice Muamba’s hospitalisation.