Kean in limbo as Rovers near the danger zone
Fulham 3 Blackburn 2
Monday 07 March 2011
The timing of the penalty, not to mention the reason it was given, was a little cruel but when you are on a run like Blackburn's, you come to expect the worst. Moreover, as Rovers had already gone behind twice, a third goal was hardly beyond the realm of possibility.
Bobby Zamora's penalty, after Grant Hanley had grappled with Aaron Hughes, was struck hard and true down the middle in the penultimate minute and gave the visitors little time to recover again. It was a defeat Steve Kean found hard to stomach. It may also have been a defeat too far for the club's owners.
Rovers are in the middle of a woeful trough. They have lost four out of their last five league matches and you have to go back to 23 January for their last win – 2-0 at home to West Bromwich Albion. On Saturday morning, they were four points above the relegation zone. Wins for West Ham and Albion, and Zamora's penalty, halved that gap and they are now confronting serious danger of relegation.
An international break, with its two-week gap between league games, is often used as an appropriate moment for a club to sack its manager. Kean may have noted, to his consternation, that owing to the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend, Rovers have almost a fortnight until their next game, at home to Blackpool.
Venky's, Blackburn Rovers' owners, who so summarily sacked Sam Allardyce soon after they took over the club, may be losing patience with Kean. If they wait until the Blackpool game is over, and that goes badly, they may have waited too long to make a change.
It is a huge game for both clubs. The two teams are level on points with only one goal separating them in their goal difference. But while Kean knows his side are in danger, he felt that what they showed at Craven Cottage would be enough to get them out of trouble.
He said: "Without a doubt it is the tightest relegation battle. All we have to do is make sure we perform like that for the next nine games and we won't have a problem at all."
Presumably, he wasn't suggesting his side should concede the lead twice, and let players like Damien Duff shoot from close range with their favourite foot, as the Irishman did in each half.
Presumably he also wasn't proposing his men give referee Mark Clattenburg, who has been under pressure for a week, since the Wayne Rooney elbow incident, an excuse to show he can make big decisions.
But when Hanley fouled Hughes, that's exactly what happened. Gaël Givet then ran on to the pitch after the final whistle to berate the referee, which earned him a red card and reduced Kean's defensive options for the game against Blackpool.
Kean may have been referring to his players finding the spirit to come back twice, through a Hanley shot, deflected in by Brede Hangeland, and then Junior Hoilett's well-taken volley. Whether Venky's have the courage to stick with Kean is another issue.
Scorers: Fulham Duff 37, 59, Zamora (pen) 89. Blackburn Hanley 45, Hoilett 65.
Subs: Fulham Zamora 6 (Murphy, 70), Kakuta (Dembele, 78). Blackburn Pedersen (Givet, 76), Rochina (Hoilett, 82), Emerton (Salgado, 90). Booked: Fulham Baird, Etuhu. Blackburn Hanley, J Jones, Roberts.
Man of the match Duff. Match rating 7/10.
Possession Fulham 55% Blackburn 45%.
Attempts on target Fulham 11 Blackburn 9.
Referee M Clattenburg (Durham). Att 25,687.
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