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Venue: Ewood Park, Blackburn
Premier League
 Saturday 2 February 2008; 3:00pm
Blackburn 
0-0
 EVERTON
Half Time: 0-0
  
Attendance: 27,946
Fixture 25
Referee: Alan Wiley

Robbed!

After basically being robbed parking my car after the Spurs game on Wednesday night, it was all the more difficult to take seeing Everton get robbed not for the first time this season.

We were supposed to set off to Ewood Park at 11am and I was doing the driving. At about 10.30am Adam decided he wanted to drive instead. Fine by me was the cry so we set off at about 11.30am, arriving and parking amidst the slush and snow of Blackburn a little after 1pm. Its always nice to get to an away ground in good time to grab a few beers and we did just that in a fantastic away pub, I think called The Ferensway (although I could be wrong). Here we watched Arsenal take Manchester City apart to put themselves top of the league. We also got the team news as well, finding out that Osman and Cahill had made it as expected as we reverted to 4-5-1. Blackburn started with Santa Cruz and Derbyshire in attack.

We got to the ground and into our seats in the Upper Tear of the Darwen End just before the teams came out. The referee was the ever-pompous Alan Whiley. The game began very cagey and it was Blackburn who had the first opportunity with Santa Cruz given practically a free header from a corner although he thankfully rasped it into the side-netting. Everton probably took about 20 minutes to settle and get used to the pitch but once we got to grips with things you felt we were more in control. On about 25 minutes after a neat move Arteta scampered across the edge of the box before delivering a left footed strike goalwards which Friedel saved well and Blackburn cleared from a corner. From this the ball was half cleared to Osman at the edge of the box who half-volleyed just the wrong side of the post as Everton began to get into their stride.

I rarely bother with a half time beer but with about 10 minutes still to go in the first half I couldnt really see a goal coming before he interval so Gary and I went down for a pint. The service at the bar, although fast, was dreadful. Some fella decided to serve two of us at the same time, one a young lad about 14, and myself. The lad wanted a hot dog, I wanted two bottles of Carlsberg. The man came back giving the bottles to the young lad and the hot dog to me. Bemused, me and the lad just exchanged gifts and the lad paid for his hot dog, but the man gave me the change. We sorted it all out in the end but it was just bizarre. Anyways, although the beer wasnt great I did have a good laugh down there and it was indeed 0-0 at half time, although not without incident. It was only watching Match of the Day last night whence I realised Dunne had so deliberately handballed whilst already booked which would have reduced Blackburn to 10 men. Now I know this doesnt always necessarily work to your advantage but it did for Blackburn when Jagielka headed goalwards from a corner, only for Dunne to clear off the linealthough there were certainly bigger talking points to come in the second half.

Just as Gary and I took our seats for the second half the ball was played across the box to Fernandes in space who had a great chance with only Friedel to beat. Sadly he drove weakly straight at the American and Blackburn cleared. At times we played some fantastic football in the second half and really should have won this one whilst Blackburn created generally little. A ball was played up to Johnson and he went down in a heap. From my view I thought hed just taken a touch and slipped but having seen it again on Match of the Day last night it was abundantly clear that Zurab Khizanishvili fouled Andy Johnsopn in what should have been a clear penaltyalthough there was certainly a bigger talking point in the second half.

Manuel Fernandes, with really his only telling contribution all game, cracked the post with an excellent clever free kick that caught everybody off guard as Everton again came close. With Leon Osman presumably tiring he was substituted for Vaughan to give Johnson a bit of support in attack. He had an early impact as well when a Howard clearance was headed on, and then chased himself by Vaughan. Johnson was clearly well offside but simply nowhere near the play and just not interfering with it at all. Even if the linesman felt he was interfering with play at that point he should surely have put his flag up thennot later. Anyways Vaughan was in a one on one chase with Brad Friedel and they both went in for the sliding tackle. Vaughan was brave and won it well. Vaughan was quick thinking as well and played a great ball whilst on the ground across the box to Johnson who took a touch putting the ball into the air. At first I thought hed made a stupidly overhit touch and the chance had gone but this wasnt the case. His touch was excellent as it took it over and past the now covering Blackburn defenders of which there were three. Now with three players ahead of you and the ball played well in front of them this surely makes our NOW active player onside. Johnson finished superbly and we all went nuts. The fella next to Gary lost his glasses in amidst the celebrations. I hope he found them and hope he didnt have to drive home as that would have been tricky. It was absolute bedlam as we all felt wed scored and probably won the game. It was only a little later when I looked back at the pitch that I realized the goal had been chalked off as Blackburn were now on the attack. It was an absolutely ridiculous decision. Even before this passage of play rule nonsense this goal should have stood as Johnson werent interfering with play when the initial ball was played. Its of course not the first time weve been robbed this season but you just dont feel as though the referee or linesman would have the gall to make such a ludicrous decision had it been against one of the so called big four, and just imagine the moaning, bickering and probable referee-demoting consequences of that. Why is no action taken when it isnt the big four? Nobody in the Blackburn team had even thought about complaining. I dont know whether to blame the referee or the linesman as earlier the linesman had given a baffling decision against Arteta which the ref over-ruled so it seems nobody really knows what the hell is going on here.

This seemed to flatten Everton a bit and it was Blackburn who finished the game a bit stronger, with substitute Benni McCarthy creating Blackburns own talking point when he went down when through on goal against Howard, claiming Jagileka fouled him from behind but having since seen it I didnt see much in it. Santa Cruz also half volleyed over the bar with a reasonably good chance but Everton withstood this.

And that was that. Two games, two goalless draws and a feeling that with those seemingly stuttering around us we really should have taken some more points form these games. We definitely should have won today, being denied that chance to play against 10 men, a blatant penalty and a blatant goal, and also should have had an apparent blatant penalty against Spurs on Wednesday night. I just hope that this, and of course the derby result earlier in the season, doesnt come back to bite us as we never really seem to get out of jail with things ourselves.

Player Ratings:
Howard: Again his handling was superb although he didnt have a great deal to do otherwise. 7
Baines: Got up and down well but had a pretty quiet game. 6
Jagielka: Kept things steady. 6
Lescott: Kept things steady. 6
Neville; Much improved from Wednesday night and got forward very well. 7
Carsley: Seemed to be under instructions not to cross half way but completed his defensive duties dutifully. 6
Arteta: Seemed to drift in and out of the game but generally kept and distributed the ball well when in possession. 6
Fernandes: That free kick aside I thought he was poor today. He missed a sitter and always tried to do too much with the ball when this wasnt the right game for that. 5
Cahill: My man of the match. Got stuck in, passed the ball around very effectively and was up and down the pitch all game long. 8
Osman: Was doing quite well until tiring and being subbed. I fancy him to have quite a big impact throughout the remainder of the season. 6
Johnson: Probed well all game and I cant quite believe he had that perfectly good goal chalked off. 8

Sub:
Vaughan (for Osman): Just for his immediate impact alone, he gets a 7.

 

Paul Traill

Groundhog Day

It seemed like the perfect end to a hard-fought, often niggly encounter against a fellow contender for Europe. Having had the upper hand for much of the game over Blackburn Rovers, Everton had the ball in the back of the net with less than four minutes left of normal time. In such a tightly-contested game, it would almost certainly have been the winner.

Unfortunately, the controversial interpretation of a linesman who had already been over-ruled by referee Alan Wiley of the murky offside rule led to a perfectly good goal being chalked off and the loss of two points for Everton that could prove crucial in the final reckoning.

It was, of course, Groundhog Day across the Pond and the feeling of deja vu was a little too real for the Blues. Denied what was regarded at the time as an iron clad spot-kick and probable victory in this fixture last season — there was also a decent shout for a spot-kick in this one — they were also robbed of points in the Merseyside derby by controversial officiating. They say these things even out over the course of a season but try telling that to David Moyes who glowered on the touchline as time ticked down had, for a split second, looked like a priceless win.

20 scappy minutes in, a goalless draw would have been a good bet but while the first half did improve, the game really came to life in the second. Everton had shaded it in the first 45 minutes, creating the best chance of the game when Mikel Arteta drifted in from the touchline, played a one-two with Leon Osman before making space for a low drive that Brad Friedel beat away to safety.

Rovers surprisingly subdued and ineffective in the final third where Roche Santa Cruz was ploughing a lone, virtually fruitless furrow. The Paraguayan did glance a 2nd-minute corner into the side-netting but his contribution was easily eclipsed by the industrious Andy Johnson who ran himself ragged in the same role for Everton.

His chief role before the break was to win a series of corners but it wasn't until the 46th minute that Mikel Arteta found his range and provided Phil Jagielka with the opportunity to head goalwards but David Dunn cleared it off the line.

Had the letter of the law been applied the way it apparently was with Johnson's 86th minute "winner", Dunn shouldn't have even been on the pitch by that point. Already booked in the 21st minute for a late tackle on Arteta, the midfielder inexplicably handled as the Spaniard beat him for skill near the touchline but referee Alan Wiley showed lenience and elected not to flash him a second yellow for deliberate handball.

No personnel changes were made at half time but there was a noticeable increase in urgency from both sides from the restart. David Bentley, Rovers' chief threat before the break with a couple of long-range efforts, forced Tim Howard into his first save of the game when he dived to his left to bundle the midfielder's powerful shot behind. And when the visitors broke quickly from the resulting corner with Johnson leading the charge, Arteta's cross made it all the way to Manuel Fernandes in space 12 yards out but he shot too close to Friedel and the keeper saved with his legs.

Nine minutes later, Khizanishvili, already booked for a succession of fouls on Johnson, was lucky to escape giving away a penalty when, with both players watching the path of Leighton Baines' lofted ball back into the area, he took AJ's legs from under him and dumped him on the turf. It was another clumsy challenge by a player who was mystifyingly named man of the match over the Ewood Park tannoy at the end of the game and while probably unintentional, by the letter of the law it was a foul. It would have been given anywhere else on the pitch so it should have been a penalty.

Dunn was replaced a couple of minutes after that in favour of Benny McCarthy and Blackburn did start to improve. It was Everton, though, having shaken off their propensity to hoof it aimlessly from the back in the early stages of the game, who continued to have the better chances.

Osman, who had another ineffectual game by his standards, guided a header wide, although he was partially unsighted by Tim Cahill's leap, before Arteta despatched a direct free kick a couple of yards wide into the advertising hoardings behind the goal. In between, the traveling Blues thought that a bit of Fernandes magic had given them the lead. After Johnson had been bundled over by Stephen Reid, the Portuguese midfielder curled a brilliant free kick around the wall but it bounced agonisingly off the face of the post and was hacked away by the relieved Blackburn defence.

Mark Hughes's continued to increase the pressure as the game entered the final 15 minutes and had the home crowd baying for a penalty of their own when McCarthy slipped under the attentions of the almost impeccable Jagielka just as he was about to nudge the ball past Howard at the end of a rare piece of incisive Blackburn play.

With 12 minutes left of regulation time, Bentley forced the save of the game from Howard when he pawed his bending free kick away acrobatically.

But it was in the 86th minute that travesty struck. James Vaughan, on as a 75th-minute replacement for Osman, did brilliantly to beat Stephen Warnock to a Howard goal kick, heading the ball into space and then racing onto the loose ball. Friedel flew out of his area but Vaughan won the tackle and, despite being on his backside, managed to flick it to Johnson with his out-stretched leg. Johnson took the pass in stride, took the ball wide of his marker and coolly slotted passed the defender on the line and into the empty net.

His celebrations and those of his teammates were cut short, though, by the linesman's flag which was only raised as AJ fired home. Whether he was flagged offside because he was in an offside position when Vaughan initially headed the ball on (phase one) or because the linesman felt that there was only one defender between Friedel and the goal when Vaughan squared it to his strike partner (phase two) is not clear but, in either case, it was the wrong decision.

Johnson was not interering with play in "phase one" and there were at least two, probably three, Blackburn players in front of him at phase two. Unfortunately, there are too many grey areas around the offside rule these days giving the officials an easy way out of a difficult situation. It doesn't help Everton, of course; they lose two crucial points in their quest to finish fourth.

The only thing that would have served as a greater injustice to Everton after that was if Blackburn had stolen a winner in the dying minutes and they came mighty close in the second minute of stoppage time when Brett Emerton got free in space on the Rovers right and picked Santa Cruz out brilliantly with a low cross but the striker could only sweep a side-foot shot over the bar when he really should have done better.

Put plainly, Everton were robbed of victory here. Not only did they deserve to win on the whole despite not playing as well as they know they can, but they also scored legitimate goal. What is perhaps more painful is that everyone knows that there is no way that goal would have been disallowed if it were scored by any of the "Sky Four". In that sense, even if the Blues finish in the top four this season, they still have a long way to go before such decisions automatically go their way.

Player Ratings

Howard: After spending the first 20 minutes or so hoofing it in vain towards Johnson, he started using his defenders a lot more as the game progressed which was good to see. Made two good saves when called upon. 7

Neville: Improved distribution and a more commanding performance at right back. 8

Jagielka: If he put a foot wrong all game, it went unnoticed. Another terrific central defensive display alongside Joleon Lescott. 9

Lescott: Solid as a rock, as always. 9

Baines: While he didn't get forward nearly as much as some would have liked, it was noticeable how little space was afforded to Bentley and Emerton. That was important because until McCarthy came on, Bentley in particular was their only real threat. 7

Carsley: After a sub-par display against Spurs, he was much improved today, even in terms of distribution. 8

Fernandes: Largely anonymous for the first 20-30 minutesm he grew in stature as the game went on but still betrayed an annoying tendency to shy out of the tackle at important moments. 7

Arteta: He has been criticised for not turning it on away from home but he couldn't have been accused of that today. Still not quite consistent enough with his set-pieces and not as effective as he has been at beating his man with pure skill, he was the Blues' inspiration again. 8

Osman: He's clearly not match-fit and that again seemed to impact his performance. Not much came off for Ossie and it was no surprise when he made way for Vaughan in the second half. 6

Cahill: Another one struggling for form. He did OK in support of Johnson without excelling and didn't get a sniff of goal. 6

Johnson: He's had his critics recently but he worked tirelessly today without ever really getting a sight of goal until the 86th minute. Then he sticks it away as efficiently as you like, only to have the goal chalked off. 9

Vaughan (on for Osman): He came on at a time when Blackburn were in the ascendency so he didn't get much of the ball but his one moment of magic created the "goal" for AJ and he was cruelly denied a brilliant assist. 7

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

Fresh from the frustration of Wednesday's goalless draw with Tottenham and a busier than expected transfer deadline day that mostly affected the fringes of the squad, Everton continue their quest for a fourth-place finish with a tricky fixture at Blackburn Rovers.

Mark Hughes' side looked a decent bet to be challengers to the hegemony of the top four, particularly given the goalscoring form of Roche Santa Cruz and their combative style, but their form slipped a little in December with defeats to West Ham, Wigan and Chelsea. Unbeaten since the turn of the year, though, Rovers are five points behind in 8th place.

The last two meetings between these two sides both ended 1-1 — coincidentally the scoreline in Blackburn's two most recent league games — but Everton's performance in the reverse fixture at Goodison in August was below par and they should by rights have won here last season when Andy Johnson was denied a cast-iron penalty.

None of that will count for much this weekend, though, particularly given that fact that David Moyes will just about be able to name 16 senior players for the team-sheet. Nigeria's progression to the quarter finals of the Africa Cup of Nations means that the earliest Joseph Yobo and Yakubu will be back is after 3rd February. And though South Africa were eliminated at the group stage allowing Steven Pienaar an early return, the midfielder picked up an ankle injury in training before Bafana Bafana's 1-1 draw with Senegal and looks likely to be sidelined for two to three weeks.

match photo
Steven Pienaar: back from AFCoN duty but carrying an ankle injury

Tim Cahill has a hamstring injury, Thomas Gravesen isn't worth considering given his persistent knee problems, and both Alan Stubbs and Anderson Silva de Franca — named on the substitute's bench against Spurs in midweek — were sold to Barnsley on transfer deadline day.

New arrival Anthony Gardner will fill the vacancy left by Stubbs and Tony Hibbert, back after serving a one-game ban, is likely to start on the bench with Phil Neville continuing at right back.

Indeed, unless Leon Osman, who has an outside chance of making it after failing a fitness test for the midweek clash with Spurs with calf and groin complaints, makes it, Moyes will probably name an unchanged line-up.

That would mean a second consecutive start for the Andy Johnson-Victor Anichebe partnership and Leighton Baines continuing on the left flank ahead of Nuno Valente where he performed pretty well for the bulk of the Tottenham game.

Blackburn will be a difficult nut to crack, particularly if Everton resort to their annoying recent habit of ignoring the passing game for a more direct route when things aren't going to plan. They're far from invincable, though, as Coventry proved in the FA Cup a month ago when they thrashed them 4-1 on their own turf. Chelsea and Arsenal have also won at Ewood Park since late December.

Keeping Santa Cruz and David Bentley quiet will be the key to this one and if Andy Johnson can shake off the disappointment of Wednesday and rediscover his killer instinct, the Blues may be able to sneak a priceless victory.

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Stats

Everton go into their 154th match against Blackburn Rovers (and their 73rd match at Blackburn) on Saturday looking to extend their current unbeaten run in the league to 5 matches.  In the last 14 matches in the league, Everton have only lost twice, to Manchester United and Arsenal, and can include a 1:1 draw at Chelsea in that run.

Everton's record against Blackburn Rovers:

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Premier League

27

11

5

11

27

30

Division One

106

44

23

39

200

182

Division Two

6

0

2

4

2

10

FA Cup

11

7

1

3

19

13

Charity Shield

2

2

0

0

3

1

ZDS Cup

1

1

0

0

4

1

TOTALS:

153

65

31

57

255

237

Our record at Blackburn:

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Premier League

13

5

3

5

16

16

Division One

53

12

11

30

80

120

Division Two

3

0

1

2

1

4

FA Cup

2

1

0

1

4

5

ZDS Cup

1

1

0

0

4

1

TOTALS:

72

19

15

38

105

146

The last match between the sides was on 25 August 2007, earlier this season, at Goodison Park, when a James McFadden goal secured a 1:1 draw.

The last match between the sides at Ewood Park, was on 23 August 2006 when Tim Cahill came off the bench and secured another 1:1 draw.

This will be Everton’s 16th match on 2 February:

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Premier League

2

1

0

1

2

2

Division One

8

2

5

1

9

6

FA Cup

5

2

1

2

10

10

TOTALS:

15

5

6

4

21

18

The last match on this date was in 2005, when a Gary Doherty own goal secured a 1:0 win over Norwich City at Goodison Park.

The last away match on this date was in 1992, when Everton drew 0:0 with Aston Villa at Villa Park in the last season before the creation of the Premier League.

The only time Everton have been beaten in an away match on this date was in 1924 when goals from Jack Cock and Wilf Chadwick failed to stop a 2:5 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup.  Everton’s away record on this date is P-8 W-2 D-5 L-1 GF-10 GA-9.  In fact Everton have drawn their last five away matches on this date.

Milestones that can be reached this game:

If Everton win, they will match the club record of 3 consecutive away victories in the Premier League, which has happened twice before and both times were under David Moyes.  The first was between 27 October 2002 and 17 November 2002 when Everton beat West Ham United, Leeds United and Blackburn Rovers (all of them 1:0) after which the club suffered a 1:2 defeat at Newcastle United.  The second was between 11 September 2004 and 23 October 2004 when Everton beat Manchester City (1:0), Portsmouth (1:0) and Norwich City (3:2) before suffering a 0:1 defeat against Chelsea.

Steve Flanagan

* Unfortunately, we cannot control other sites' content policies and therefore cannot guarantee that links to external reports will remain active.

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BLACKBURN (4-4-2)
  Friedel
  Emerton :53'
  Ooijer
  Khizanishvili :45'
  Warnock
  Reid
  Derbyshire (73' Kerimoglu)
  Bentley
  Dunn :22' (56' McCarthy)
  Pedersen :90'
  Santa Cruz
  Subs not used
  Brown
  Berner
  Roberts

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Howard :89'
  Neville
  Baines
  Jagielka
  Lescott
  Carsley
  Fernandes
  Osman (75' Vaughan)
  Arteta :90'
  Cahill
  Johnson
  Subs not used
  Wessels
  Hibbert
  Valente
  Anichebe
  Unavailable
  Gardner (injured)
  Pienaar (injured)
  Gravesen (injured)
  Yakubu (AFCoN)
  Yobo (AFCoN)
  Jutkiewicz (loan)
  Boyle (loan)
  Kissock (loan)
  Spencer (loan)
  Vidarsson (loan)
  Turner (injured)

Premier League Scores
Saturday 2 February 2008
Birmingham 1-1 Derby
Blackburn 0-0 Everton
Liverpool 3-0 Sunderland
Man City 1-3 Arsenal
Portsmouth 1-1 Chelsea
Reading 0-2 Bolton
Tottenham 1-1 Man Utd
Wigan 1-0 West Ham
Sunday 3 February 2008
Fulham 2-1 Aston Villa
Middlesbro 1-1 Newcastle

Premier League Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Arsenal 60
2 Man Utd 58
3 Chelsea 54
4 Everton 44
5 Liverpool 43
6 Aston Villa 41
7 Man City 41
8 Blackburn 39
9 Portsmouth 38
10 West Ham 36
11 Tottenham 29
12 Newcastle 28
13 Middlesbro 26
14 Bolton 25
15 Wigan 23
16 Sunderland 23
17 Reading 22
18 Birmingham 21
19 Fulham 19
20 Derby 9
After 10 Feb 2008


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