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[Archived] News Article -> 2011/12 Match Report: Rovers 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2

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Blackburn Rovers (1) 1 – 2 (1) Tottenham Hotspur
Formica 28 van der Vaart 15, 53
Referee: S. Attwell Attendance: 22,786

On a day when 500 or so marched before the game to have Steve Kean removed and considerably more remained after the game to demand the same, it was perhaps ironic that the team should produce what was undoubtedly their best performance of the season. The end result was still the same: defeat, no points and still rooted to the foot of the table. However, the performance would suggest that the players are still very much behind their manager — a fact remarked upon by Harry Redknapp in the post-match interviews.

The players and manager clearly have an excellent working relationship, but sadly this is not reflected in the league table. With virtually a quarter of the season now gone, the club are anchored at the bottom with just 5 points gained from the 27 that have been available. With 29 games remaining, the team are still some 35 points away from the magical 40 mark as the margin for error decreases with each passing week.

The dilemma facing Venky's is whether to stick or twist with regard to the managerial position and the manner of the performance against Tottenham would suggest that Kean will remain in place for a little while longer at least. With a favourable fixture list in November and early December, one can only hope that the decision to keep faith with Kean is justified, for if results are not turned around during this period, it will be too late for Kean or any other manager to save the club from relegation.

Kean was forced to change his side due to injuries to Michel Salgado and Scott Dann. Jason Lowe was again asked to drop to right-back with Martin Olsson doing the same on the opposite flank and Gael Givet moving across to partner Chris Samba in the centre of the back four. Simon Vukcevic came in for his first Premier League start on the right wing while Morten Gamst Pedersen returned from injury to partner Steven Nzonzi in the centre of midfield. Jason Roberts again led the attack with Mauro Formica playing in the hole, both supporting attack and helping out in midfield.

Tottenham had defensive problems which meant Sebastien Bassong started his first Premier League match of the season, although Harry Redknapp had Aaron Lennon available again and recalled him on the right wing.

During the early stages the Rovers looked at their most dangerous when the pace of Junior Hoilett and Olsson could be exploited. Their link-up play forced an early corner from which Samba headed over. Hoilett then popped up in the old "inside-right" position and drove at the visiting defence before blazing his shot over the bar.

However, it wasn't long before Tottenham showed their own attacking credentials with a superb move down the left wing. Gareth Bale, lurking on the touchline in his own half, played the ball inside to Rafael van der Vaart, before sprinting down the wing to receive a return pass. With Lowe trailing in his wake he delivered a pin-point low cross towards Emmanuel Adebayor in the centre, but fortunately Givet made a brilliant tackle to get his foot to the ball and the Rovers managed to scramble it clear.

Unfortunately, the opening goal was not long delayed and came from another incisive break down the flank, but this time on the right. A pass by Pedersen was intended for the overlapping run of Olsson but was intercepted and played to Lennon. The winger held the ball up before sending Kyle Walker away down the wing. With Olsson out of position, Givet was forced to come across to try to cover the gap but was unable to keep pace with Tottenham's speedy full-back. Walker cut into the penalty area and, as Samba came across to meet him, he simply pulled the ball back into the path of the oncoming van der Vaart, who, totally unmarked, was able to pick his spot and give Tottenham a 15th-minute lead.

The goal rocked the Rovers and the visitors might well have increased their lead when Paul Robinson was forced to tip the ball over the bar after Bale's cross had struck Olsson and seemed destined for the net. Bale, who was giving Lowe a torrid time at this point, ended another teasing run with a pass that was met by Adebayor, but fortunately the former Arsenal striker failed to make a clean connection and Robinson was able to make a save.

It was, therefore, somewhat against the run of play that the Rovers managed to drag themselves back into the game with an equaliser that was straight out of the Sam Allardyce playbook. A Pedersen free-kick, on the edge of the centre circle in the Tottenham half, was floated goalwards. Samba threw himself at the ball, taking out two defenders in the process, and although he was unable to make a clean connection with his attempted header, the ball fell to Formica who showed terrific technique in firing the ball high into the corner of the net.

The Rovers might well have taken the lead when Vukcevic forced Brad Friedel to make a save by the near post and then another Pedersen free-kick was met by the head of Samba, but unfortunately the ball flew narrowly wide.

Although the Rovers had ended the first half strongly, it was the visitors who created the best of the early chances at the start of the second half.

A shot by Luka Modric was palmed away by Robinson but only found Lennon. He immediately pulled the ball back across goal, but Bale completely missed his kick as he seemed certain to fire Tottenham into the lead. Sadly, the reprieve was only short-lived and on 53 minutes the visitors took the lead thanks to an exquisite finish by van der Vaart.

It was the Dutch international who started the move with a ball played into Adebayor, who in turn laid it into the path of Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who was racing down the left wing. Vukcevic attempted to rob him, but his tackle merely saw the ball rebound against the Tottenham full-back and into the path of van der Vaart, who struck an inch-perfect shot past Robinson and into the back of the net. It was the finish of a quality player and perfectly illustrated the difference between the two sides.

The Rovers then forced Tottenham onto the back foot and might well have forced an equaliser with another typical set-piece. A long throw by Pedersen was back-headed by Samba and seemed destined for the net until Friedel managed to arch his back and get fingertips to the ball and send it over the bar.

The Rovers continued to maintain pressure on the Tottenham goal and Yakubu really ought to have done better when Olsson's cross wasn't cut out by Bassong, but the Nigerian international couldn't adjust his body to meet the ball correctly and ended up diverting the ball well wide when in front of goal.

Tottenham managed to withstand the increased pressure and Redknapp later admitted that they had their "backs to the wall" during the final twenty minutes. He also agreed that the Rovers' players couldn't have given anymore for their manager and queried the protests that began at the final whistle.

While this was undoubtedly the most convincing performance of the season, it was somewhat ironic that most of the best moments came from tactics employed by the former manager. Free-kicks from Pedersen and Robinson, corner-kicks from Pedersen and, of course, the Norwegian's long throw — all aimed at Samba — were the weapons which caused the visitors the greatest problems.

The Rovers looked better balanced than of late with Pedersen providing a little more stability in the centre of midfield alongside Nzonzi, who had another excellent game. Vukcevic offered more defensive support on the wing, while Hoilett and Olsson troubled the opposition with their pace. Samba and Givet looked a comfortable partnership in the centre of defence and young Lowe did well after a difficult start. Formica took his goal well but once again had a tendency to drift in and out of the game. Roberts works hard, but I suspect he would be happier playing alongside another striker. Unfortunately, neither Yakubu nor Goodwillie improved matters when they arrived, as Kean's new signings continue to struggle to make the sort of impact that was expected. It has been said before and it will, no doubt, be said again that the owners are going to have to find the money for a quality striker if they want to keep Premier League football at Ewood Park.

While Kean's record has deservedly brought him flak from the supporters, the fact of the matter remains that he is merely an employee of the club. The owners have the power to make changes just as they had the power to make significant signings in the summer. In the transfer window they opted for bargain basement shopping and now, it would appear, they continue to put their faith in a manager who has delivered just six wins from 30 league games. One win in nine games this season is a recipe for relegation.

On a personal note, I was reminded of the 1965–66 season when Tottenham were the final visitors to Ewood Park that season. All season we were told by neutrals that we were "too good to go down", but in the end we weren't. Anyone who thinks that relegation might not be a disaster should look no further than our neighbours at Deepdale. It is now over 50 years since they dropped out of the top flight and they show no signs of returning to that level anytime soon.

Unfortunately, our owners don't appear to have a grasp of the seriousness of the situation and, if reports are to be believed, didn't actually bother to attend the game on Sunday. The seeming indifference of Venky's to the growing crisis at Ewood Park is every bit as worrying as the continued decline under Kean. Attempts to drown out the growing cries of dissatisfaction at the end of the match with music is hardly a step in the right direction, while the editorial policy of Radio Rovers now appears to have been lifted directly from Pravda.


Blackburn Rovers

Paul Robinson; Jason Lowe, Chris Samba, Gael Givet, Martin Olsson; Simon Vukcevic (Ruben Rochina 70), Steven Nzonzi, Morten Gamst Pedersen, David "Junior" Hoilett; Mauro Formica (Yakubu 70); Jason Roberts (David Goodwillie 82)
Subs not used: Mark Bunn (gk), Grant Hanley, Radosav Petrovic, Jordan Slew
Manager: Steve Kean

Tottenham Hotspur

Brad Friedel; Kyle Walker, Younes Kaboul, Sebastien Bassong, Benoit Assou-Ekotto; Aaron Lennon (Danny Rose 70), Scott Parker, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale; Rafael van der Vaart (Jermain Defoe 88); Emmanuel Adebayor
Subs not used: Carlo Cudicini (gk), Jake Livermore, Sandro, Andros Townsend, Roman Pavlyuchenko
Manager: Harry Redknapp


Blackburn Rovers – Steven Nzonzi, Jason Lowe, Jason Roberts, Yakubu

Tottenham Hotspur – Danny Rose

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