Blackburn 2-0 West Brom: OG and Hoilett strike
Blackburn moved into the top half of the Premier League table with a win in a fairly uneventful game.
Steve Kean brought in new recruits Jermaine Jones and Roque Santa Cruz, to replace El Hadji Diouf and Ryan Nelsen. Martin Olsson dropped into the defence.
Roberto Di Matteo made one change – Jonas Olsson returned to replace Graham Dorrans, so Paul Scharner moved forward into his favoured midfield position.
West Brom started well with two good efforts in the first couple of minutes, Peter Odemwingie looking lively in his lone striker role. As the game settled down, though, the home side started to assert their dominance.
Blackburn used an unusual formation – in theory it was a midfield diamond with Jones sitting, Morten Gamst Pedersen left, Junior Hoilett right and David Dunn at the top, but it was very fluid and frequently took various forms.
Hoilett played an interesting role, starting on the right but making diagonal runs across the pitch and ending up on the left wing. In turn, the midfield would shuffle across and Blackburn would defend as a flat four when they lost the ball, which meant that Jones would move right, Pedersen right-centre and Dunn would drop in to the left.
Still, with Hoilett drifting to the left, Dunn often finding more space there, Pedersen naturally moving onto his stronger foot and Olsson offering more of an attacking threat than Michel Salgado, Blackburn’s play was very lopsided:
The away side used their usual 4-2-3-1 shape, with the wingers dropping back level with the central midfielders to defend as two banks of four. They played well in fits and starts – they had the odd spell where their passing came together and they looked promising, but they were overpowered by Blackburn in the centre of the pitch, especially without the ball. Chris Brunt became frustrated at his lack of involvement and came inside into the centre of the pitch, which made things congested and didn’t stretch the play enough.
Blackburn used their forward duo well – both Santa Cruz and Nikola Kalinic moved wide into the channels when they lost the ball, which made the West Brom full-backs tentative about coming forward, and also split the centre-backs.
Kean also instructed his side to quickly close down West Brom’s midfielders whenever they got the ball, to break up Di Matteo’s side’s passing game. It was notable how Blackburn played on the front foot when defending – rather than looking to soak up pressure by sitting deep, as they did against Chelsea, instead they played higher up and intercepted passes in the centre of the pitch:
The goals came either side of half time – first Dunn got between the lines and sent a cross in that was headed into his own net by Gabriel Tamas. Hoilett doubled the lead in the second half with a powerful strike from the edge of the box.
Di Matteo changed things by taking off Youssuf Mulumbu and bringing on Somen Tchoyi, using James Morrison slightly deeper in midfield, and his side got back into the game by being more positive, opening up the game, and giving their creative players more space. Jerome Thomas came off the flank and beat Salgado with his pace on more than one occasion – which prompted Kean to replace the Spanish veteran. In all, though, West Brom didn’t move the ball quick enough and Odemwingie saw little of the ball at 2-0 down, and Blackburn deserved the win.
Not too much to comment on here – Blackburn kept things nice and compact with their diamond midfield which also shifted back into a four, and used their forwards in slightly wider roles to compensate for the fact they had a numerical disadvantage in midfield.
West Brom never really got going. Di Matteo admitted that the side simply wasn’t good enough, and the recent run of defeats seems to have resulted in a loss of confidence.Blackburn 2-0 West Brom: OG and Hoilett strike