Football: Rovers reeling as Rudi romps

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers 1

McAteer 68

Sheffield Wednesday 4

Sonner 20, Rudi 40, 43, Booth 82 Half-time: 0-3 Attendance: 24,643

BLACKBURN'S six-year-old mascot threw a small tantrum before this match, refusing to be photographed with the assembled participants. Perhaps, with a far-sightedness rare in one so young, he knew what was coming and did not wish to be associated with it.

In the 45 minutes that followed, Rovers were taken apart by Wednesday and in particularly Petter Rudi, who made one goal and scored two more. Although Jason McAteer pulled one back in a much more evenly contested second half, the damage to Brian Kidd's previously unbeaten home record as Blackburn manager was irreversible.

A side wearied by midweek League commitments and further weakened when Chris Sutton failed a fitness test on his ankle, struggled from the start against a Wednesday team always willing to get numbers into the penalty area.

That first paid off for them after 20 minutes when Rudi, finding space on the left, got in a short cross which came off Andy Booth for Danny Sonner to drive past John Filan.

Wednesday's second goal was a classic, Benito Carbone controlling Niclas Alexandersson's through-ball by killing it with his instep before pulling it back for Rudi to blast into the net. Immediately after that Damian Duff, often the isolated bright spark for the jaded Rovers, could have pulled a goal back, but his shot bounced down off the underside of the bar. Before the break, Rudi and Wednesday struck again, the Norwegian leading a counter-attack by shipping the ball out to Wim Jonk on the right and getting into the box to head his cross home.

The Wednesday manager Danny Wilson was predictably delighted with Rudi. "His running off the ball was magnificent. They couldn't cope with him," he said. "Not many have got the engine that Petter has and the only thing that has been lacking from him is the goals."

Kidd brought on Nathan Blake for an exhausted Matt Jansen at half-time and that gave their attack a little more focus. There was no real sign of any escape route, however, even when Jason McAteer shot from almost 30 yards out and saw his low effort deflected into the corner of Kevin Pressman's net for his first goal for his new club.

Forced to reorganise their defence after Des Walker went off with a damaged ankle, Wednesday never looked likely to concede more than that and they made certain of all three points when Booth, a handful throughout, chased a long clearance, shrugged off a challenge and slid the ball past Filan.

Kidd, despite seeing the end of his unbeaten home run, was not overly critical of his team, drained as they were after their League match at Chelsea.

"It was just a tired team out there. They were running on empty today," he said. "The effort they put in has been first-class, but it catches up with you."

It does not get easier for Rovers in the immediate future with an FA Cup replay against Newcastle on Wednesday.

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