Everton fail to crack Allardyce's code

Blackburn Rovers 0 Everton 0
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The Independent Football

Two sides who have prided themselves on becoming hard to beat at their different ends of the Premier League table cancelled themselves out at Ewood Park. Steven Pienaar forced the best save of the game from Jason Brown in the first half, but Blackburn will feel they had more chances to win it, with a string of opportunities early in the second, none of which they were able to take. "You can't ask for any more chances than that," admitted Sam Allardyce. "Unfortunately, we couldn't convert one of them into a goal."

Allardyce spoke his mind earlier in the week about his suspicion that Everton's Tim Cahill gets too much of the benefit of the doubt from referees when he climbs past bigger men to win the ball in the air. As if to illustrate the point, the first dangerous moment of the game saw Cahill doing just that and flicking on a header for the Brazilian, Jo. It was the closest that Brown, making a rare start in place of the injured Paul Robinson, came to being tested in the best part of the first 40 minutes, although he did have a couple of long-range Leighton Baines free-kicks to pluck out of the air.

Rovers employed Jason Roberts in place of the suspended Morten Gamst Pedersen. For all his familiar industry, however, they could not manufacture a clear sight of goal past a solid, well-drilled Everton defence that looked as solid as ever. The one partial exception was when Keith Andrews lined up a shot from a tempting position on the edge of the area, only for Jack Rodwell to show that he has defensive diligence as well as youthful élan by getting in a valuable block. The best chance of a frenetic, but strangely featureless first half fell to Pienaar five minutes from the break. The ball fell for him inside the box and he must have thought he had plenty of the goal to aim for. Brown threw himself to his right, however, to pull off a breathtaking save.

Rovers brought on Tugay in place of Vince Grella for the second half, no doubt hoping for the sort of incisive pass that can unlock a game. Almost immediately, Roque Santa Cruz shot past the far post when the ball fell to him in the box.

Everton felt aggrieved when Cahill was hurt tangling with the towering Christopher Samba, but still, to Allardyce's evident amusement, managed to be the man penalised. Blackburn were in the ascendancy now and Santa Cruz might have done better than heading over from El-Hadji Diouf's cross. Two more close things followed, when Stephen Warnock's free-kick hit the crossbar and Tim Howard saved at Roberts' feet. The striker should have done better, although Joleon Lescott was in close attendance.

Warnock then survived a penalty shout in the other box when he got in a last-ditch tackle on Pienaar. Everton looked to Louis Saha and Marouane Fellaini to try to crack the code, but Blackburn under Allardyce are nobody's soft touch at home.

Lescott came close to winning it in the last minute when he volleyed just wide.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Brown; Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Givet (Mokoena, 64); Andrews, Grella (Tugay, h-t), Warnock, Diouf; Roberts, Santa Cruz. Substitutes not used: Bunn (gk), Simpson, McCarthy, Dunn, Treacy.

Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Jagielka, Yobo, Lescott, Baines; Osman, Neville, Rodwell (Saha, 71), Pienaar; Cahill; Jo (Fellaini, 78). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Castillo, Gosling, Van der Meyde, Jacobsen.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Booked: Blackburn Givet.

Man of the match: Pienaar.

Attendance: 21,445.