Blackburn Rovers began their Premier League season in style with a slender victory over North West rivals Everton at Ewood Park. Although the Merseysiders displayed some neat, intricate passing at times, they found it difficult to break down the home team in the final third. The result will give Sam Allardyce and his team much confidence as they look forward to continuing the rest of the season in similar fashion.
There was a surprise in the starting line-up when Big Sam named new skipper Chris Samba, Australian Ryan Nelsen and talented youngster Phil Jones in the same team, whilst Player of the Season in 2009/2010 Steven N’Zonzi only found himself on the bench, despite having played almost every single game of the last campaign. The idea was to allow local lad Phil Jones showcase his talents in defensive midfield, indicating his impressive versatility as he is normally utilised in the centre-back position.
Not only did Jones play very well, but the crowd also saw glimpses of his potential going forward, where he made a couple of darting runs deep into the opposition half. With his ability to play in defence as well as in front of the back-four, Jones seems more and more cut-out to be a future England international.
Although young Frenchman N’Zonzi did not start the game, he was called quickly into action before ten minutes of the fixture had even passed. Influential attacking-midfielder David Dunn pulled up with an injury early on in the match, something which Allardyce would have wanted to avoid considering the impact of Dunn’s constant time on the sidelines last year. Dunn’s fitness is of huge importance to Blackburn, as he finished top-scorer for Rovers last campaign and will be needed to boost the side going forward. It is unknown how many days or weeks Dunn will miss through injury; however Rovers will be hoping for a quick recovery of their talismanic midfield maestro.
Croatian striker Nikola Kalinic bagged the winner in awkward circumstances, with American goalkeeper Tim Howard dropping the ball only for the striker to slot it into the back of the net. However, as much of a gift the goal was for Kalinic, it revealed some of his most important attributes. The youngster is hard-working and eager, as witnessed at times last season and during this game, with his willingness to chase down lost causes much to the delight of the crowd. Also, his reaction to Howard’s blunder was very quick and proved successful. Kalinic could prove a menacing figure in the box in similar situations where the opposite man between the sticks makes an error or flaps at the ball.
Meanwhile, the Ewood Park faithful also caught a glimpse of loan-signing Mame Diouf, who impressed when he came on for Kalinic in the second half. Diouf showed great desire to hold the ball, pick the right pass and use his pace when needed, all characteristics which will prove useful in future games as he looks to torment opposition defenders. From his debut appearance, it seems that the Senegalese forward will offer Rovers more pace and creativity in the final third.
Things have also started to move forward off the field too, with Indian Tycoon Ahsan Ali Syed’s team arriving at Ewood Park as the takeover of the Lancashire club edges closer. The billionaire is thought to be on the verge of signing an agreement which would allow him to look through the books ahead of a potential £300m capture. Ahead of talks, Syed said “I am aware that Big Sam has big ambitions for this transfer window and I would love to support his ambitions.” Although it seems unlikely that any such deal will go ahead so soon, these words clearly signal the intent of Blackburn’s prospective new owner.
Looking ahead, Rovers can now prepare for an away game at Birmingham, where they were narrowly beaten last season. Having defeated a highly-rated Everton side, Blackburn will go into this game full of confidence knowing that three points on their travels would prove a brilliant start to their campaign as Big Sam looks to steer his side into the top half of the table once again. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see whether former Birmingham man David Dunn will regain fitness ahead of the clash. If not, then Allardyce will have to alter his tactics ahead of this tough yet winnable fixture. As for now though, Blackburn can be proud of a successful opening week of the new season.