Rovers turn chicken in the face of Wolves and Ward
Blackburn Rovers 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2
Sunday 14 August 2011
There was huge amusement in the close season when a promotional film for the Blackburn owners, Venky's, was leaked showing David Dunn and Co tucking into a plate of chicken. This game was an equally entertaining advert for the Premier League, but the Rovers manager, Steve Kean, will fail to see the funny side as his team limply relinquished a first-half lead to hand Wolves victory via Stephen Ward's fine volley early in the second half.
It had all begun so brightly for Rovers. In the fourth minute they almost went ahead when Junior Hoilett slid in at the far post to prompt a superb diving save from Wayne Hennessey.
Blackburn protested long and loud that the ball had crossed the line as the perennial debate over technology got an early airing – even if Kean later charitably praised the Wolves goalkeeper for a brilliant save. "I thought it went in but I've seen it again and what I thought was the white of the ball over the line was his glove," Kean said. "It was a fine stop."
But 16 minutes later the Lancashire side did better as the impressively busy Jason Roberts bustled his way through the middle of the Wolves defence and slipped a fine through- ball to the advancing new signing Mauro Formica.
Rovers may have been scuppered by the loss of the likes of Ryan Nelsen and Chris Samba but Formica underlined the quality in the squad with a neat finish.
Blackburn seemed to be on the way to repeating last season's double over Mick McCarthy's side, but with the permanent addition from Spurs of Jamie O'Hara it looks like Wolves will be made of stronger stuff this season, and an immediate response was summoned up in robust style.
Among Wolves' spattering of quality moments, their 22nd-minute equaliser stood out. Matthew Jarvis, who last season became their first England international since Steve Bull, galloped down the wing and put in a fine, deep cross that evaded Paul Robinson – but not Stephen Fletcher,who met the ball with a resounding header within two minutes ofFormica's opener.
Blackburn were shocked, and with the buzzing presence of Kevin Doyle a constant menace, their makeshift back four had to deal with some searching forays.
Rovers held out until the interval thanks to Steven Nzonzi and Grant Hanley in the heart of defence, but they are not a natural defensive pair and it began increasingly to show. Straight after the break Michel Salgado was adjudged to have tripped Jarvis yet although Robinson saved Doyle's penalty, Ward's edge-of-the-box effort in the ensuing panic gave Wolves a winning lead.
Rovers looked desperately for a response, Wolves looked desperately to hold on. In the end they managed to do that with considerable comfort.
"It is a great start and we can't ask for much more than that. I thought we played well," McCarthy said. "If you go behind in the Premier League, you don't often come back, especially away from home.
"The game was end to end in the first half with chances at both ends. [But] when we scored the second I thought we then controlled the game."
Blackburn Rovers (4-5-1): Robinson; Salgado, Hanley, Nzonzi, Olsson; Emerton (Rochina, h-t), Dunn, Pedersen (Goodwillie, 72), Hoilett, Formica (Blackman, 84); Roberts.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Hennessey; Stearman (Foley, 49), Johnson, Berra, Ward; Jarvis (Elokobi, 75), O'Hara, Henry, Hunt (Maierhofer, 90); Doyle, Fletcher.
Referee Kevin Friend.
Man of the match Stephen Fletcher (Wolverhampton)
Match rating 8/10
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