Blackburn Rovers 0 Everton 2: Hughes sees red again as Todd holds his hand up

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The Independent Football

Everton's interest in Roy Keane may not be a story with legs but there is every reason to believe that their recovery in the Premiership is gathering meaningful momentum.

They had a little help at Ewood Park yesterday, playing for two thirds of the match against 10 men, and they made the most of the opportunity.

A goal up while the numbers were still equal, they added a second before half-time and as much as Blackburn retained the upper hand in possession, there never seemed much likelihood that the superiority of David Moyes's team would be threatened.

Blackburn's first home defeat in almost three months left skipper Andy Todd counting the cost of his 32nd-minute red card, shown for a handball that potentially denied James Beattie a goalscoring opportunity. The balance of the contest changed dramatically with Todd's dismissal and brought an angry response from Blackburn manager Mark Hughes.

"I thought it was harsh,'' Hughes said. "Beattie flicked the ball into Andy's body and as he tried to adjust his position, he clipped it with his hand but you can't say there was any intent. That's the second sending off we have had this season with Mark Halsey in charge so you can say he is not the most popular guy around here at the moment.''

Halsey sent off defender Zurab Khizanishvili when Rovers lost 1-0 at Liverpool in October. That red card was later rescinded, although Hughes has no enthusiasm for appealing against this one. "Whatever you say, you can't change the result,'' he added.

What might have changed the outcome here are the chances that Blackburn missed, particularly by Morten Gamst Pedersen. He volleyed wide early in the first half and wasted a header at the start of the second. On both occasions it looked easier to score.

Indeed, Blackburn had kicked off at such a tempo that the only logical outcome seemed to be a home win. The sending off was a telling factor, although some credit was due to Moyes for switching to a five-man midfield. "Outside the top three or four, Blackburn are playing as well as anyone in the Premiership and they gave us a hard time for the first 15 or 20 minutes,'' Moyes admitted.

But the balance tilted in Everton's favour in the space of three dramatic minutes. First Everton scored against the run of play on 28 minutes, when James McFadden nodded the ball past a somewhat leaden- footed Brad Friedel. Then came the moment Todd had cause to regret. Mr Halsey needed to consult his assistant before deciding to send the defender off but there seemed little doubt that a red card would be the outcome, given that he was the last man. Craig Bellamy was booked for his part in the subsequent protest and it was a surprise that he was the only one.

Mikel Arteta scored Everton's second with a lovely curling shot from the edge of the box on the stroke of half-time, giving Friedel no chance and providing Everton with the rare luxury of a two- goal lead.

Moyes refused to discuss details of Everton's approach for Keane but admitted that there were "20 or 30 managers who would like him at their club".

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