West Bromwich Albion's Romanian defender Gabriel Tamas will not have particularly fond memories of playing against Blackburn this season. Sent off in the 3-1 defeat at The Hawthorns last month, Tamas's contribution yesterday was an unstoppably headed own goal that set Rovers on their way to a victory that elevated them into seventh place in the Premier League.
"I'm pleased with that," said the Blackburn manager, Steve Kean. "We played some nice stuff. Paul Robinson kept us in the game at times, but we deserved the three points."
For his first match since signing a new long-term contract to keep him at the club until 2013, Kean was able to bring in two significant reinforcements. Roque Santa Cruz made his home debut on his return from 18 months at Manchester City and the dual German and United States international Jermaine Jones – also on a six-month loan – made his first appearance for Blackburn.
That should have been a considerable boost for a side already boasting an impressive home record this season and that was ultimately the case. Despite looking understandably rusty, Santa Cruz showed plenty of the touches that endeared him to Ewood Park first time around, while Jones's industrious effort as the holding midfielder won him the home man-of-the-match award. "He's not even fully fit, but he's got everything," Kean said of Jones.
The new men and their colleagues started, however, like a veritable team of strangers. Inside the first minute, Morten Gamst Pedersen gave the ball away to Albion striker Peter Odemwingie and Robinson had to make a good save before he was properly warmed up. Still in the opening minute, Jones fouled James Morrison unnecessarily in an inviting position for a free-kick, but Chris Brunt fired it into the wall.
It was almost half-an-hour before Blackburn began to pose a threat to Boaz Myhill, again preferred to Scott Carson in the West Brom goal, Martin Olsson forcing a save when the defence failed to clear Pedersen's throw. Christopher Samba was then allowed the turning circle of an oil tanker before calling Myhill into action again.
After both Santa Cruz and Samba had further chances, Myhill's defence undermined him even more blatantly. There was no particular danger in David Dunn's cross from the right, but Tamas got in front of Nikola Kalinic to head it past Myhill when it would have been far easier to clear it.
"He just mistimed his jump and finished up facing the wrong way," the West Brom manager Roberto di Matteo said as he surveyed the damage that mistake did to his team's chances.
There was less direct, but still important, assistance for the second Blackburn goal after the restart. Again, there seemed little threat when Junior Hoilett took the ball, but his sinuous turn took him right away from Paul Scharner and his shot into the roof of the net was ferocious. It was the first Premier League goal for the highly promising young midfielder and one he might have to wait some time before improving upon.
It also summed up one side of Albion's personality – mixed Baggies as ever. Always capable of creative attacking play, they are just too frail in defence to inspire any real confidence in their Premier League survival now that they are down to 15th in the table.
With Robinson in commanding form, all their good footballing instincts came to nothing yesterday, although they should have been give the opportunity to fight back via a penalty midway through the second half. Martin Olsson clearly brought down Odemwingie but referee Mark Clattenburg mysteriously ruled that it was outside the area.
"Apart from the referee, everybody else thought we should have had a penalty," Di Matteo said. "It was quite clear from where I was that the ball was inside."
A free-kick was the verdict and Brunt, having a bad day with the dead ball, hammered it into the wall again. Whether a penalty would have sparked a comeback that might have brought them something from this game is another question, but right now Albion could use any help they can get.
Substitutes: Blackburn Nzonzi (Dunn, 63), Roberts (Kalinic, 63), Hanley (Salgado, 76). Unused Bunn (gk), M B Diouf, Benjani, E-H Diouf.
West Brom Tchoyi (Mulumbu, 57), Bednar (Morrison, 76). Unused Carson (gk), Ibanez, Shorey, Zuiverloon, Cox.
Booked West Brom Thomas
Possession Blackburn 51% West Brom 49%.
Shots on target Blackburn 12 West Brom 7
Man of the match Hoilett. Match rating: 6/10.
Referee M Clattenburg (Co Durham). Att 24,057.