Flitcroft off to bad start

Blackburn Rovers 0 Everton 3 Amokachi 71, Kanchelskis 76, 89 Attendance: 29,468
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The Independent Online
THIS is not the sort of debut Garry Flitcroft will be telling his grandchildren about. Already crippled by the absence of the injured Alan Shearer, Blackburn were paralysed when their pounds 3m signing was dismissed in the third minute.

His aerial challenge, elbows raised on Tony Grant, was adjudged by the referee Jeff Winter as violent conduct, adding to the former Manchester City player's 10 previous bookings this season. Duncan Ferguson was also shown the yellow card after the scuffling resulting from the penalty- area clash. The Everton manager, Joe Royle, described the challenge as "awful".

"I was equally upset with Duncan's reaction," Royle said, "but if we criticise referees we have to be equally honest. The sending-off upset us as much as it did them."

Blackburn though reacted brutally, with Anders Limpar and Paul Rideout feeling the effects of a bone-crunching first half. Both players were taken off on stretchers and needed crutches to leave Ewood Park.

Ray Harford, the Blackburn manager, believed his own player was unlucky to be singled out. "I thought Ferguson inflamed the situation but the referee said he would have sent Flitcroft off anyway. We worked our socks off to try and stall them. They were extending us but they didn't really cut us apart."

With Everton deploying three central defenders against Mike Newell, who was operating as a lone striker, a tactical game of cat and mouse developed, Blackburn quickly retreating behind the ball but also breaking from defence to good effect.

However, as the home side ran out of steam, Andrei Kanchelskis stepped on the gas and turned Everton's possession into attacking potency with the outcome of this battle for Uefa Cup places rarely in much doubt.

Indeed it was a surprise that it took so long before Daniel Amokachi broke the deadlock, the Nigeria international firing through Tim Flowers and a gaggle of Blackburn defenders on the line after a corner had dropped invitingly at his feet. Kanchelskis comfortably reached the byline minutes later, drew Flowers to the near post and craftily flicked the ball home with his weaker left foot to make it 2-0.

The winger completed the scoring with seconds remaining after breaking from the halfway line and charging at the whites of Flowers' eyes before lifting a shot into the roof of the goal.

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