Fuham 1-1 Blackburn Rovers – Points shared in frustrating affair
Craven Cottage, London
Zamora 38 – Rochina 32
This was a true bottom-of-the-table clash. Defeat would have seen Blackburn, yet to win a point, make their worst start to a season since 1947, while a similar result would see their hosts Fulham make their worst opening to a Premier League season.
At the start of the game, the Cottagers were only separated from bottom-placed Rovers in the table by new kids Swansea and that is exactly how the things looked at the end of a match that was low quality and even lower on entertainment. In truth, but for two excellent goals, the crowd would have got more value for money had there been no players on the pitch and they had just watched the Craven Cottage grass grow.
The Rovers’ formation, which had David Goodwillie on his own up front, made it clear that Steve Kean, whose team conceded an average of more than two goals per game away from home last season, was making defence his priority. And who could blame him? Rovers had already shipped three in their opening game on the road this term and if the morning papers were to be believed defeat would have left him out of the job he only started nine months ago.
Fulham had the best of the opening exchanges, maintaining the majority of the possession and creating what few early chances there were. Yet, clearly Blackburn’s fear of losing was, like shingles, highly contagious and Fulham started to back off and lose their early tempo.
Fulham’s £10.6m debutant striker Bryan Ruiz looked as out of place as Alice on her first trip down the rabbit hole and he was at fault for the first goal. The Costa Rican was out-muscled on the half-way line by Rubén Rochina and, despite tracking back, allowed Rochina a free shot when he received a return ball from Junior Hoilett on the edge of the area. Six minutes later, Bobby Zamora equalised with a fine effort after Damien Duff found him with a neat pass. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the sum total of the afternoon’s entertainment.
Luiz was replaced by Moussa Dembele at the break and Fulham looked a different side, regularly finding the spaces the behind Rovers’ defence that had been there all along but which they had been unable to locate in the first half. That they failed to score was a criminal waste of opportunity.
A shockingly poor game had a genuinely shocking denouement when Hoilett and Schwarzer clashed heads in injury time. The Blackburn youngster received about 10 minutes of treatment on the pitch before he was stretchered off, neck brace in place. Fortunately it was a minor concussion.
Of the two managers, Kean will be the happier with the result; one cannot help feeling his side were lucky to escape with a point and Martin Jol will be ruing Fulham’s profligacy in front of goal. Yet, the Dutchman will be the happier with the performance, particularly after Dembele came on there was a spark to the side which, if they can start finding the net a little more often, should see them climb out of the bottom three.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Hughes (Kelly 20), Senderos, Hangeland, John Arne Riise (Johnson 80); Duff, Sidwell, Murphy, Dempsey; Ruiz (Dembele 46), Zamora
Blackburn Rovers (4-5-1): Robinson; Salgado, Samba (Olsson 46), Dann, Givet; Hoilett, Dunn (Petrovic 52), Formica, Nzonzi, Rochina (Lowe 70); Goodwillie
Did you know…Blackburn have managed to keep only one clean sheet on the road since the beginning of last season – at the Emirates on the 2nd of April.