Blackburn may have had Samba the player, but City had samba the rhythm, as goals from their South American trio of Elano, Robinho and Felipe Caicedo brought them a comfortable, if not entertaining, victory over a thoroughly unimpressive Blackburn Rovers side. The home team led three – nil at the break, and despite a second-half goal from Keith Andrews, the final scoreline was never in doubt.
On the whole, this encounter was a dull affair, with limited action and barely any excitement, but the result moves City up into eighth place in the Premier League table, and continues their excellent home record, having now won eleven out of the past twelve games at Eastlands. Blackburn remain in fifteenth position, currently lying six points off the relegation zone, but their manager, Sam Allardyce, will surely be concerned with his side’s lacklustre display.
“Big Sam” hasn’t acquired that name for no reason …
Blues boss Mark Hughes named the same side that started the win against Everton in City’s previous match, with Micah Richards recovering in time from his knock. Bulgarian duo Valeri Bojinov and Martin Petrov, who both scored for the reserves in midweek, were named on the bench, where they were joined by Brazilian defender and Jewish legend Berti. One recent addition to the City faithful, a little ball-boy who is positioned near the South Stand, was greeted with his now customary chant of “Shauny Wright Wright Wright” since the resemblance to the England winger is remarkable, whilst this adorable kid, soon to be known as SWP 2, delighted the fans with his occasional wave when prompted.
Former Bolton Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce faced an injury crisis up-front, with Roque Santa Cruz and Jason Roberts both ruled out, and with Matt Derbyshire away on loan, behemoth Congolese defender Christopher Samba was asked to play as a forward, where he was partnered by Benni McCarthy. Although Samba clearly offers a physical presence, akin to the one posed by Felipe Caicedo for City, one could not help but wonder if Rovers had severely weakened their defence, but Allardyce is the manager for a reason, so we would have to wait and see if this was an inspired tactical choice.
City Line-Up (4-2-3-1)
Richards Dunne Onuoha Bridge
de Jong Kompany
Elano Ireland Robinho
Subs: Hart, Garrido, BERTI, Fernandes, Petrov, Evans, Bojinov
The match started at a fairly sedentary pace, with barely any action within the opening quarter of an hour, a swerving Vince Grella shot aside. The travelling Blackburn faithful attempted to imitate their City counterparts by bringing inflatable bananas with them, but the idea backfired when only two fans joined in. The loudest cheer in the first few minutes was for the SWP look-a-like ball-boy when he retrieved the ball for a corner, which was promptly cleared.
Turkish midfielder Tugay Kerimoglu, who is being released at the end of the season, should have been cautioned for a tackle on Stephen Ireland, before City took the lead in the 26th minute following a goalmouth scramble of gigantic proportions. Elano swung a corner over and the ball fell to Caicedo, via Kompany, Onuoha, Samba, Warnock and Pedersen, two yards out and the Ecuadorian made no mistake with his unerring finish; a toe-poke into the corner! The striker was booked for taking his shirt off when celebrating, thus revealing a body that should not belong to a 20 year old.
Caicedo pokes home before taking off his shirt to celebrate
Firmly in the ascendancy, City pushed in search of a second goal, and that goal duly arrived just after the half-hour mark when another corner from Elano found Vincent Kompany on the edge of box. The Belgian’s header was cleared, but only to the right boot of Robinho, who calmly stroked the ball home past the stranded Paul Robinson to extend the home side’s advantage.
Forced to open up a smidgen in order to restore parity, Blackburn started to cause a few problems, with Benni McCarthy’s header agonisingly dropping just over the bar with Given helpless. Both Tugay and Andre Ooijer saw their long-distance efforts land harmlessly wide, but it was still City who led.
Robinho’s effort beats Robinson, whilst the Brazilian does his best impression of the Asda advert to celebrate
With half-time approaching, Blackburn were almost down and out, but City delivered the final blow courtesy of creative midfielder Elano, whose penalty found the back of the net. A neat interchange of passing between Robinho and Ireland saw the Irishman set free inside the box, but his attempted back-heel was handled by Gael Givet, so referee Mike “Hunt” Dean pointed to the spot. Furious at the decision, which replays proved was correct, a plethora of Blackburn players surrounded the official, who proceeded to caution three of them. Elano stepped up and, as we all expected, calmly slotted the ball past Robinson to give City a three – nil lead at half-time.
Givet handles the ball before Elano sends the ‘keeper the wrong way
The second period brought a spate of substitutions for both sides, with the visitors utilising their full allocation of three changes, replacing McCarthy, Tugay and Samba with Carlos Villanueva, Keith Andrews and youngster Aaron Doran. Meanwhile, City brought on Bulgarian striker Valeri Bojinov in place of Caicedo.
In general, the second-half contained about as much excitement as a geriatric get-together, but the boredom was lifted when Dean awarded the visitors a penalty in the 66th minute for a foul by Nedum Onuoha on Pedersen. Everyone’s favourite player to hate, El Hadi Diouf, stepped up, but was foiled by a fantastic diving save from Given. And although the former Newcastle stopper also stopped the rebound, Keith Andrews was on hand to tap the ball home to give the scoreline a tinge of respectability.
The rest of the game meandered on, with Martin Petrov replacing the impressive Elano, but Blackburn offered limited threat and City ran away comfortable winners. It was the first time since October 2007 that the Blues had strung together a run of three consecutive Premier League wins, so confidence in the camp should be high for the all important game next week; the derby!
Morten Gamst Pedersen and Wayne Bridge contest an aerial ball
Micah Richards ’v’ Morten Gamst Pedersen
Richards, despite being doubtful for this match with the injury he picked up against Everton, was solid enough at the back, without ever being in total control. He made a couple of lung-busting runs forward, but his final ball needs work on. Pedersen, whose Rory Delap-esque long throw was deployed on several occasions without any notable success, drifted in and out of the game, but was still capable of supplying quality from a dead-ball situation. This was a fairly evenly matches contest, so the final outcome is a DRAW.
Elano ‘v’ Stephen Warnock
Warnock’s distribution and general positional play left a lot to be desired, and with Elano in possibly the form of his life, the former Liverpool left-back was tormented throughout the match. The Brazilian was full of dainty flicks and wonderful skills, and his passing was a joy to behold. He added yet another goal from the penalty spot, and displayed the form which won him the player of the month vote for April. There is only one winner for this contest, and that is ELANO.
Felipe ‘The Bruiser’ Caicedo ’v’ Christopher Samba
The Ecuadorian battering ram Caicedo put in a “shift” against Blackburn, scoring a close range finish following a goalmouth scramble. He was more mobile than usual, but his first touch is quite simply abysmal. He couldn’t control a guide dog! Samba was playing up-front at the behest of Allardyce, and although he displayed fleeting moments of nimble footwork, he was superbly handled by Richard Dunne and Nedum Onuoha, so overall, the winner here is CAICEDO.
Referee Mike Dean, on the left, was a reliable and competent official
Given – Saved Diouf’s penalty with ease, and mightily unlucky with the rebound, but apart from that he was hardly troubled. – 7.5
Richards – Gradually improving, but still some way short of his best form from last season. Managed to limit the considerable threat of Pedersen, but must work on his crosses – 7
Dunne – Along with Onuoha, handled Samba brilliantly. Won his fair share of headers against the defender turned attacker, and dealt well with McCarthy and then Villanueva – 8
Onuoha – Along with Dunne, handled Samba brilliantly. Won his fair share of headers against the defender turned attacker, and dealt well with McCarthy and then Villanueva. Gave away penalty, which was the only downside of his performance – 8
Bridge – Got forward well to support Robinho, but still looks shaky at times when defending. Maybe time for Garrido, Ball, McGivern or, god forbid, Berti? – 6.5
de Jong – Protects the back four very well indeed. Knows how to challenge and makes countless interceptions during the game – 7.5
Kompany – Not one of Vincent’s most productive afternoons. His distribution was very disappointing, although he did set up Robinho for the Brazilian’s goal – 6
Elano – Scored yet another penalty and was generally very impressive. Tried a couple of wonderfully audacious pieces of skill which nearly came off, and will hope to fight off the challenge of the returning SWP – 8.5
Ireland – Not involved as much as he would have liked, but won the penalty from which Elano scored. Maybe time for a rest? – 6.5
Robinho – Scored one to take his tally to fifteen for the season and looked up for this encounter. Was given too much time and space by Ooijer and exploited this very well – 8
Caicedo – Ran a lot more than normal, but must do this on a more regular occasion. As previously said, his first touch is truly shocking, but his confidence will be boosted after scoring – 7
Bojinov – Struggled to find the tempo of the game and was largely anonymous. Should maybe start against Manchester United next week – 5
Petrov – Whipped over a couple of fantastic crosses, but wasn’t given enough time on the pitch – No time to mark
Man of the Match: Elano
Elano was yet again the star performer
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