Yakubu 67 – M Davies 5, Reo-Coker 30
Blackburn Rovers will spend Christmas Day bottom of the Premier League after a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Bolton Wanderers. Goals from Mark Davies and Nigel Reo-Coker sent Wanderers into a two-goal lead at half-time before Yakubu pulled one back. The result eases the pressure on Owen Coyle but heaps even more onto the beleaguered Steve Kean.
The opening period was as scrappy as a battle of the bottom two would suggest. Neither side gained a clear advantage, Davies’ early goal coming before the pattern of play had really been established. The overriding theme of the first quarter of an hour then was an almost endemic misuse of possession, a symptom perhaps of the nerves around both sides brought on by their perilous position.
Davies’ goal did settle Bolton, or, more accurately, unsettled Blackburn even further. Once Wanderers began to find their rhythm there were short bursts with the home side barely in the game, until Bolton’s fragility quickly returned and they allowed Rovers back into the action, but both sides displayed the unsure touch and hesitant pass of relegation strugglers.
Most worryingly for Blackburn, when Bolton did eek out an opening, they found the net. Reo-Coker led the counter-attack and from Martin Petrov’s low centre, swept the ball past the despairing Paul Robinson. If Blackburn’s defending for both goals was ugly, the fans’ response was uglier still. The shouts for Kean’s departure had been noticeable but sporadic until the second goal rolled over the line, met with a cacophony from the home crowd. A third goal nearly arrived in similar fashion soon after. The half petered out with Blackburn barely an attacking presence in the 45 minutes.
Blackburn offered more potency in attack in the first three minutes of the second-half than the 45 of the first. Steven N’Zonzi curled a side-footed effort from the edge of the area over the bar following Junior Hoilett’s lay-off but Rovers could not turn the tide completely in their favour. Bolton remained a threat, both on the break and through some increasingly slick build-up play, with most of Blackburn’s meagre opportunities coming during frantic goalmouth scrambles.
Yakubu put Blackburn back into the tie just after the hour, evading Gary Cahill to lift the ball past Jussi Jaaskelainen and give Rovers hope. Up to that point Bolton had looked the most likely to score, counter-attacking at will as Blackburn pushed high up the pitch, with Bolton using Rovers own desperation to score against them. It continued after Yakubu found the net, with Petrov and Tuncay Sanli nearly combining to score a third, but Blackburn were more authoritatively in the game and presented fewer opportunities to be caught out.
As time ticked down, however, and Bolton regrouped from the initial onslaught that followed Yakubu’s strike, Rovers’ threat faded. Coyle brought an extra midfielder into the fray and Blackburn continued to probe forward but never created a chance as clear as the one which Yakubu put away. Bolton were understandably content to work the ball across the pitch slowly, not committing too many players forward and frustrating Blackburn. Kean pushed Christopher Samba forward and the defender went close but an equaliser did not arrive, condemning Blackburn to the bottom of the league and giving Bolton a vital three points.
Blackburn (4-4-2): Robinson; Lowe, Samba, Hanley, Pedersen; Vukcevic (Goodwillie 65), N’Zonzi, Dunn, Formica (Rochina 65); Hoilett, Yakubu
Bolton (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Alonso (Robinson 58); M Davies, Reo-Coker, Muamba, Petrov; Klasnic (Pratley 81), N’Gog (Tuncay 72)
Did you know…Only one team in the last 19 seasons has been bottom of the top flight on Christmas Day and survived relegation.
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