During pre-season, Everton appeared to be in the pink of health with six wins from seven. Today however, they looked simply daft in the pink, producing a performance almost as shocking as their chosen awayday hue for the season.
Although this game was a massive improvement on the 6-1 thrashing at home to Arsenal last season, Blackburn were full value for the three points by virtue of their team ethic and composure throughout the 90 minutes as Everton, despite enjoying most of the late play, just couldn’t find a way in.
The tone was set on a clement afternoon in East Lancashire when just two minutes in, winger Morten Gamst-Pedersen managed (with disquieting ease) to chip the ball for the onrushing Martin Olsson, who could only blaze his shot over the bar. Minutes later, El Hadji-Diouf saw his header comfortably saved by Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard as Blackburn began to dictate the play.
Despite losing David Dunn to injury Rovers remained confident, and they took the lead with a prize blunder from Howard. The American international allowed a simple catch to slip out of his grasp, and striker Nikola Kalinic drilled home the easiest goal he will ever score in his career.
Frustratingly, this was the signal for Everton to start exerting pressure, as Tim Cahill could only shoot straight at Paul Robinson, who remained untested until the dying minutes. A free kick from Mikel Arteta was the only action of note that Robinson was required to undertake in the first half, the deflected free kick gathered at the second attempt.
In the second half Everton continued to press forward, and their attacking ambitions were perhaps realised a little too late, with Jermaine Beckford making his debut as a sub by replacing the anonymous Leon Osman. Sadly, Beckford made no difference at all, and Everton continued to struggle for an opening. In turn, Manchester United loan signing Mame Biraf Diouf was brought in place of Kalinic to partner El Hadji Diouf (no relation) in attack.
After a brief interchange of chances, Blackburn should have buried the game with ten minutes to go, as French youth midfielder Steven N’Zonzi flashed a header wide after El-Hadji Diouf’s expert delivery. It would only be then that Everton tested the resolve of Blackburn’s defence, with Jagielka’s injury time shot well covered by Robinson.
Three points and a brilliant start for a well drilled Blackburn team, but Champions League aspiring Everton are already looking over their shoulders – the wrong direction for a club who showed such promise earlier in the year.
Transfer Tavern’s Man of the Match – PHIL JONES
BLACKBURN RATINGS (Out of 10):
ROBINSON – 6 – Little to do except marshal the defence and keep a safe pair of hands.
SAMBA – 6 – The imposing figure of Samba puts any attacker off his game.
SALGADO – 5 – Silly booking and some erratic moments ruined an otherwise competent afternoon.
JONES – 8 – The emerging youngster showed industry across the pitch and was never afraid to take on more experienced opponents.
OLSSON – 6 – Should have scored, but solid at the back nonetheless.
GIVET – 6 – Made the odd move forward, but didn’t give the visitors too much stress
NELSEN – 7 – Broke up some attacks from the visitors and demonstrated awareness when it mattered.
DUNN (Injured 9′) – 5 – Didn’t cause many problems during his short time on the pitch.
PEDERSEN – 6 – Has a mean throw, but lacked finesse today.
KALINIC – 7 – A thorn in Everton’s side all day and took the initiative after being gift wrapped the winner
E-H. DIOUF – 6 – Not exactly on top of his game, but still provided some good delivery
N’ZONZI – 7 – Mostly menacing on the ball and was equal to his markers.
M. DIOUF – 6 – Eager and pacy, but still some bedding in to be done.
EVERTON RATINGS (Out of 10):
HOWARD – 4 – Little to do except pick the ball out of the net after disaster struck.
BAINES – 6 – Showed a great sense of spirit and passion when there was very little among the Everton ranks. Defensively solid.
JAGIELKA – 5 – Shows ambition coming forward, but then offered very little all the same.
DISTIN – 6 – Won a few crucial balls to prevent a heavier defeat.
NEVILLE – 5 – Unremarkable performance, lacked willingness to go wide.
OSMAN – 4 – Shut out of the game by Blackburn’s large and savvy defence.
PIENAAR – 5 – Offered little overall except for a few half-openings.
ARTETA – 5 – Disappointing game today, delivering crosses further away from the goalkeeper is essential.
CAHILL – 6 – Bright and energetic to start with, dropped out towards end.
FELLAINI – 5 – Passing game was off colour today and showed occasional recklessness in the challenge.
SAHA – 4 – Was a liability in attack and looked completely off the pace of the game.
RODWELL – 5 – Anonymous and frustrated throughout.
BECKFORD – 4 – As with Osman, not given a look in by a stalwart defence.
BILYALETDINOV – 5 – Didn’t make much of a change when brought on.