Yakubu's goal rush lifts Rovers off the bottom
Blackburn Rovers 4 Swansea City 2: Awesome foursome brings blessed relief for beleaguered manager Kean
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Sunday 04 December 2011
Like a mighty beast of burden, the man they call The Yak lifted his team off the foot of the table and at least some of the weight from his manager.
Yakubu Ayegbeni's four goals, taking him to 10 for the season, brought Blackburn an invaluable victory. If the hard-liners of the Steve Kean Out tendency still chanted for his sacking at the end almost outof habit, it was without their usual conviction and vitriol.
"I'd like the majority to be more vocal and say to the protesters, 'Give the lads a chance'," Kean said. "The best thing would be for us to go on an unbeaten run and go up the table, then if they still want to protest there's obviously something else.
"The great thing about Yakubu is that he scores all sorts of goals, but a striker is only as good as his service – and the service we gave him today was fantastic."
Kean made five changes to the side defeated by Cardiff in the Carling Cup in midweek, while Swansea were without their leading scorer, Danny Graham, for their first-ever top-flight visit to Ewood Park. They still lined up enterprisingly, with three up front, belying their recent record of three games without a goal.
The width with which they played gave Rovers some early problems, especially on the City left, where Scott Sinclair seemed to have the measure of Jason Lowe and put in a couple of dangerous balls. Blackburn were slow off their blocks by comparison, with only a Morten Gamst Pedersenfree-kick to their name andthat drifting harmlessly beyond the far post.
All that changed after 19 minutes, with a goal of a quality quite foreign to the standard of the game thus far. Yakubu began it by laying the ball off to Gaël Givet on the left wing. Crucially, the Nigerian kept running flat out, to arrive in the penalty area as Givet pulled it back and to score with a left-footer that streaked into Michel Vorm's top corner.
After that, Yakubu was energised in the way he can be when in exactly the right mood, and it looked just a matter of time before he scored again. First, though, Swansea came up with a goal almost as good, from Mark Gower's lovely flighted cross and an equally good header from Leroy Lita, which beat Paul Robinson inside his far post.
In time added on at the end of the first half it was The Yak again. Pedersen's corner was only partly cleared, and Simon Vukcevic, just on as a substitute, hooked it back towards goal. It was missing by a couple of yards until Yakubu leaned forward almost casually to head it inside the upright.
After a half-time largely devoted to the chanting of "Feed The Yak and he will score," Yakubu set about fulfilling that prophecy. He thought he had done so for the third time when he prodded home a clever pass from the impressive Vukcevic, but the assistant had his flag up.
After a couple of flurries from the ever-dangerous Sinclair, he did complete his hat-trick, partly thanks to an unlikely assist from Robinson. Vorm had to tip over from a long clearance from his opposite number. When the corner came in, Christopher Samba commandingly won it in theair and Yakubu was there to complete his treble with a simple second header.
Two Swansea substitutes combined to keep them in the game, Robinson only parrying Wayne Routledge's shot into the path of Luke Moore. But after Joe Allen had been sent off for a second yellow card, for pulling back Junior Hoilett, Vukcevic was brought down in the area, and there was never much doubt about who was going to take the penalty.
Swansea's manager, Brendan Rodgers, described the red card as "very, very harsh" and insisted that "we were fantastic going forward". In the end, however, his side had simply not defended well enough against Yakubu. Feed The Yak like that and he is liable to turn into a complete glutton.
Blackburn (4-4-2): Robinson; Lowe, Samba, Dann, Givet; Rochina (Vukcevic, 40), Dunn (Petrovic, 75), Pedersen, Hoilett; Formica, Yakubu (Roberts, 86).
Swansea ((4-3-3): Vorm; Richards, Monk, Williams, Taylor; Britton, Gower (Moore, 60), Allen; Dyer (Routledge, h-t), Lita, Sinclair.
Referee Chris Foy.
Man of the match Yakubu (Blackburn).
Match rating 7/10.
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