Blackburn Rovers beat bitter rivals Burnley by a solitary goal on Sunday to condemn their foes to yet another defeat under manager Brian Laws. However, it was the fashion of the winner that angered the fans at Turf Moor. Young Swede Martin Olsson – who usually plays at left-back but found himself playing further forward – won his side a controversial penalty, where he appeared to go down in the area with little contact from opposition goalkeeper Brian Jensen. ‘The Beast’ – as they call the stopper – was incensed, but Blackburn local hero David Dunn stepped up to send the spot-kick safely into the back of the net, much to the delight of the travelling supporters. In honesty, Rovers deserved victory as they clearly outmuscled their opponents in many parts of the game. For those who blame the referee for awarding the penalty – unfortunately for Mike Dean – it would appear to him – as it would to anyone at first sight – that Olsson was impeded. Only after a couple of replays could anyone realistically disagree with the decision. In fairness to Blackburn too, Olsson had scored a perfectly legitimate goal earlier in the game, which was ruled offside. They say decisions even themselves out – this game was a clear evidence of that.
The local derby even reignited the debate about goal-line technology, as Olsson’s rasping shot whilst his side were ahead, hit the underside of the crossbar and half of the ball fell over the line from the imminent downwards bounce. Of course, this suggests that it was not a goal and it was not given, but we can only tell this from replays – many spectators in the ground would have thought it was in. Some ugly scenes marred the game too, as blood boiled and passion got the best of both sets of supporters. Local and national newspapers suggest 42 supporters from both sides were arrested following trouble in the stadium and also claim that the referee was hit by a coin. Dunn and Christopher Samba were also the target of some coin-throwing from the Burnley fans. On the other side, Rovers fans allegedly ripped out 150 seats at Turf Moor and destroyed the away toilets. These claims will be reviewed and both clubs investigated by the Football Association.
So, after the much awaited derby, many will agree that it was the youngster Martin Olsson who impressed most, having some decent chances and really troubling the Burnley defence. In a few instances, Olsson was the furthest man forward for Rovers and his impact on the game can be easily seen by the three controversial incidents he was involved in on the day, all of an attacking nature. Firstly, his goal that was ruled offside, secondly the penalty he won and thirdly his shot off the crossbar and onto the goal line. Although often selected to play at left-back for his club, some suggest his pace causes trouble for the opposition and he should play further forward more often. From this game, it is a valid opinion and Big Sam may just use this tactic on a couple more occasions to see if the impact is similar against the bigger teams.
In defence, Phil Jones had another marvellous game. There was debate surrounding his lack of experience and whether he should actually play in such a ferocious, heated game. The teen managed to handle Didier Drogba and company perfectly enough a week ago, so he could and did play, finishing the game with a clean-sheet and yet another appearance for his side. With Rovers now safe, Allardyce may decide to give the youngster a lot of game time for the remainder of the season, which will no doubt improve him and provide Blackburn with another option at centre-back come next season.
Rovers now have Portsmouth to face at Fratton Park, on the back of three excellent results against Chelsea, Birmingham and Burnley. Despite the fact that the win at Turf Moor was only their second away victory all season, this writer would suggest Rovers’ rich vein of form and the confidence breeding at the club would allow them to get three points on their travels once again. The game sees two sides that are under no pressure in terms of the result, so perhaps we might get to see some decent football too.