Campbell's swivel keeps Everton on upward spiral
Blackburn Rovers 0 Everton 1
Monday 18 November 2002
Kevin Campbell's expertly taken goal consolidated Everton's dizzyingly lofty position in the Premiership and completed a desperately disappointing week for Blackburn.
Knocked out of the Uefa Cup by Celtic in midweek, Rovers lost ground on one of their rivals in the top half of the table, despite laying siege to them in the second half.
Everton are nothing if not resilient, however, and their fourth 1-0 Premiership win in a row showed what a difficult side to play against they have become under David Moyes.
Despite the glittering arrival on the scene of Wayne Rooney, their current success is based not so much on individual brilliance nor sophisticated tactics as on fundamental good habits like filling in for each other.
Not that they are incapable of the odd moment of fluency, as they showed in the 18th minute when Lee Carsley, who had a largely unmemorable stint at Ewood Park before going to Goodison, whipped the ball across early from the right.
Campbell, who led the line purposefully throughout, took it on his thigh, swivelled and shot in one movement and Brad Friedel was beaten.
That goal brought an end to a bright opening phase during which both sides looked to have the pace to embarrass each other. Friedel twice had to save from the lively Tomasz Radzinski and Richard Wright was forced to dive bravely at the feet of Andy Cole when he was clean through.
The chances never flowed as freely again, although Campbell could have had a second five minutes before half-time but a strong header from Gary Naysmith's corner produced an instinctive one-handed save from Friedel.
The second half was a different story, with Blackburn monopolising possession without ever looking as dangerous as they should have been.
Part of the reason for that was a commanding performance at the heart of the Everton defence by Joseph Yobo. Dominant in the air and decisive on the ground, the Nigerian snuffed out most of what Rovers could throw at him.
Yobo had an impeccable understanding with Alan Stubbs alongside him; put in front of that a midfield consisting entirely of players whose first instinct is defensive, with the matching shaved heads of Carsley and Thomas Gravesen patrolling like the Mitchell brothers in EastEnders, and you can see why they are hard to break down.
Moyes admitted that the 21-year-old Yobo had already exceeded expectations. "I was concerned a young African player, coming to a different continent, might need a little more time," he said. "He has coped with everything very well and he will get better."
The only times Blackburn looked even vaguely like getting any change out of him was when Dwight Yorke and David Thompson failed to get the telling touch to crosses and when Cole had a shot blocked in injury time.
Graeme Souness, serving the last game of his touchline ban, claimed not to be too concerned. "If we keep playing like that, we'll be fine," he said. "We'll convert that possession into goals."
Goal: Campbell (19) 0-1.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel 6; Neill 6, Short 5, Johansson 5, Curtis 5 (Yorke 6, 68); Thompson 6, Tugay 5, Dunn 5, Duff 6; Cole 6, Ostenstad 5. Substitutes not used: Bjornebye, Jansen, Grabbi, Robinson (gk).
Everton (4-4-2): Wright 6; Hibbert 5, Yobo 8, Stubbs 7, Unsworth 6; Carsley 6, Li Tie 4 (Watson 5, 56), Gravesen 6, Naysmith 5 (Rooney, 80), Campbell 7, Radzinski 7 (Weir 89). Substitutes not used: Pistone, Simonssen (gk).
Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire) 7.
Booked: Blackburn Short, Johansson, Ostenstad.
Man of the Match: Yobo.
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