As unveilings for takeovers go, the reception for the new owners on the Ewood Park pitch was as low-key as you can get. No fist pumps or kissing of the shirt, just a wave and a nod to the polite applause of the home crowd to mark the first match since Venky's bought the club. That approach mirrored Blackburn's steady style yesterday as they earned their third win in four matches.
Rovers, after a sluggish start, are now in 11th place and are looking safer with every game. Here they were convincing winners thanks to Morten Gamst Pedersen goals in either half against an Aston Villa side who huffed and puffed but found the home goalkeeper Paul Robinson equal to anything they could muster.
With the Jack Walker Trust selling the club for £43m to the India-based poultry company, it was no surprise that manager Sam Allardyce later called for investment in the January transfer window. "I met the new owners only briefly, and it was fair to say they were well entertained when they saw us lose against Chelsea and Tottenham," said the Rovers manager. "It was important they saw us win and we delivered a performance in front of them.
"I'm always trying to improve the team. But I'm excited, as new owners of a club would not want to take it backwards. They would only want to take it forward. This club has lived on its own means recently and all it's been doing in the last three years is selling major assets. If you can stop that scenario and add new assets, we have a chance."
Allardyce might have been keen on creating a good impression, but the new owners had just taken their seats when Villa twice fluffed chances to go ahead in the opening eight minutes.
Stewart Downing, not for the only time, was denied by Robinson, who saved from Ashley Young moments later. Villa looked the more dangerous in attack but when the goal finally arrived, right on half-time, it came from Rovers. Pedersen's curling free-kick from well out on the right wing was too well flighted for the former Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who could only get half a hand to it as it sailed over him and in.
Villa started the second half as they had the first, with Young's long-range drive pushed out by Robinson in the 49th minute before the England winger headed Downing's cross against the crossbar 30 seconds later.
It proved a costly miss. Friedel struggled to deal with the home side's aerial bombardment and Pedersen again punished him in the 66th minute. El-Hadji Diouf's corner under the keeper's bar was only half-cleared, and Ryan Nelsen's shot was diverted in by the Norwegian. Villa's veteran signing Robert Pires came on for the last 21 minutes but Robinson again foiled Downing late on.
Pedersen's dead-ball skills earned his manager's special praise – which was just as well, as it appears nobody else give him his due. "If one of the big boys goes and does it, it's genius – when we do it, it's a fluke. That's what we have to put up with," said Allardyce. "He puts the ball in the right areas constantly. It showed that the free-kick he scored like this one against Wigan was no fluke."
Meanwhile, with one win in eight games now, Villa are in freefall and manager Gérard Houllier's honeymoon period is over, with promising draws against Chelsea and Manchester United mixed with bad defeats like this one. The Frenchman can point to an injury list that has nine of his regulars on the sidelines, with youngsters such as Jonathan Hogg, Barry Bannan and Ciaran Clark all called up, but he is a realist and the reality is not rosy.
"I look at the League table and of course I'm worried. Football is about today's results," said Houllier. "We didn't give a fair account of ourselves. I think we had a couple of chance and you have to take them or you will be punished.
"We conceded a goal at the worst time possible, right on half-time, so it puts you in a different position. The free-kick was avoidable and you have to learn the lesson. There was no danger and we conceded a foul against a team who deliver good free-kicks. We were too shy at the start of his game. It's a different challenge, physically and mentally, against Blackburn, and we weren't at it.
"When you have a young team you will expect there will be a good side [to it] and a bad side. But as a team we have to show more personality and character and learn the lessons."
Substitutes: Blackburn Rovers Chimbonda (Givet, 46), M B Diouf (Hoilett, 64), Goulon (Pedersen, 72). Unused Bunn (gk), Hanley, Morris, Kalinic. Aston Villa Pires (Ireland, 69), Delfouneso (Agbonlahor, 78), Herd (Hogg, 81). Unused Guzan (gk), Lichaj, Lowry, Osbourne.
Booked: Aston Villa Clark.
Man of the match Pedersen Match rating 6/10
Possession Blackburn 47% Aston Villa 53%
Shots on target Blackburn 5 Aston Villa 11
Referee M Oliver (Northumberland)
Attendance 21,848Reuse content