I’m not generally a hardass but when it comes to football I am a hard man to please. You would think that I would be happy with a 3-1 away win but I’m not. In fact I was not happy at all
Whilst we always have a tough time at Ewood Park, we were playing Blackburn at just the right time. They are mired in relegation trouble at the foot of the table and had not won in 8 games going into Saturdays match. They have trouble defending and especially seem to collapse at the end of games.
We responded to this by playing one up front. Also Yossi Benayoun was rewarded for his at-best lacklustre performances this season by being given a staring role. Ryan Babel was given a start in order to give Riera a break. Emiliano Insua was given a long overdue start at left-back
We started badly and got worse in the first half. In fact, I would say it was the worst we have played all season. We were so sloppy in possession and repeatedly gave the ball away. Kuyt was running around like a headless chicken up front, Benayoun was terrible and wasted the only chance we fashioned in the first half when he dawdled after being put through and allowed ex-red Stephen Warnock to superbly tackle him. Babel was largely anonymous and Gerrard, Alonso and Mascherano seemed to be having a ‘who can give the ball away the most?’ contest.
Even though Blackburn played with no cohesion and even less ambition they almost took the lead. Gerrard telegraphed then misplaced an easy pass and Pedersen stole the ball and smashed a beautiful 25 yard shot that was heading in until Reina somehow got a hand to it and turned it onto the bar.
Only Reina and the back 4 who were as solid as ever emerged with and credit from a drab first half, particular credit should go to Arbeloa who was our main threat down the right hand side and was putting decent crosses into the box, of course being a Benitez team there was nobody in there to connect with them.
It looked like being a game in a similar vein to the Fulham and West Ham games where our negative tactics were not able to break down dogged defending. This changed though when Benayoun actually did something right, (I was as shocked as you) and the ball fell to Alonso who’s soft shot crept under Robinson and in.
We took off Babel for El Zhar, which mystified me, as Babel was by no means the worst performer on our team. El Zhars pace made a difference as it gave the Rovers defence something to worry about. Our second goal came when Benayoun turned Warnock inside out and smashed a shot past Robinson to make it 2-0. In fairness, it was a good goal and it is so frustrating that Benayoun can’t do things like that on a regular basis.
Mascherano came off with an injury meaning Lucas came on and gave away the corner from which Blackburn pulled one back completely against the run of play through Santa Cruz. We endured a difficult last 5 minutes until we broke and Gerrard put the ball into an empty net to make the score line 1-3, which flattered us immensely.
Make no mistake we were terrible. Once again we were devoid of ideas and numbers in attack and our negative tactics almost cost us dearly. We have yet to show any style at all this season and I am really concerned that we are not scoring enough as the league is so tight that Goal Difference may be a deciding factor when it comes to handing the trophies out.
Robbie Keane played no part in this game but I think it is more to do with him being rested rather than left out for lack of form. The truth is we have no other options in attack.
We play PSV Eindhoven tonight and have already qualified, but we want top spot to get the home advantage in the last 16. I dread to think what kind of team we will play. Ideally Benitez would love to rest Gerrard and Alonso so it may mean that Lucas and even Jay spearing may play. We have to bring Dossena back as Aurelio is injured and Insua ineligible. Also it might be a good idea to rest Arbeloa and try Stephen Darby at right back. Keane should start and I’d be tempted to try Babel up front with him, as Kuyt has not even travelled. David N’gog may get another chance too.