Match Report: Blackburn Rovers 2-0 Sunderland - Dull Game Breeds Depressing Result
What an awful night. A defeat which we thoroughly deserved, yet it feels like Blackburn didn't fully deserve. A game which was very reminiscent of the terrible defeat at the West Bromwich Albion a few weeks ago. Nothing went right for us at all, everyone looked like they had an eye on the FA Cup rather than focusing on the task at hand.
Anyway, if you're a masochist, put yourself through our match report, complete with other thoughts, ratings and more on tonight's match...
Martin O'Neill promised to rest a couple of players tonight, but only went with the two as David Vaughan and Sotirios Kyrgiakos came in for Jack Colback, rested and dropped to the bench and John O'Shea who has been nursing a broken wrist, but playing on bravely. Phil Bardsley suffered a knock against Everton, but was deemed fit enough to start, and captain the side. On the bench there was a return for Ji Dong-Won after a few weeks away from the first team picture.
The game started fairly low-key from our point of view, with Paul Robinson in the Blackburn goal rarely tested in the opening twenty minutes, whilst the home side had the better of things without truly dominating the game.
Indeed it was the hosts who came closest to opening the scoring after only two minutes. Michael Turner slipped when rushing up the field to meet Junior Hoilett, who skipped away, feeding Yakubu. The Nigerian striker chipped his effort over Mignolet, but the Belgian's slight touch meant Seb Larsson was able to clear off the line.
Fraizer Campbell didn't enjoy the best of starts to the game, often losing possession in the first half, and nearly gifting the hosts a goal when he was booked for a freekick right on the edge of the area. Hoilett however could only find the wall with the kick, and in particular David Vaughan's "midriff" we'll call it.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos was an interesting watch in his first start in quite some time, and did well for the opening quarter of his debut. "The Big Greek" mopped up anything which came his way well, whilst attempting the occasional long ball which in the main were on target.
For Blackburn we saw Mauro Formica and Martin Olsson lash wide from varying distances and with varying quality, whilst for us the best we could really muster was when from a corner the ball broke to Kyrgiakos, who missed the ball.
Fraizer Campbell had an appeal for a penalty rightly turned down after a wonderful ball in by McClean, but that really was it for the half. Thankfully after only one minute of stoppage time, referee Martin Atkinson finally put to bed a miserable half for both sides.
With both teams playing fairly rubbish in the first half, the hope was that we'd come out the block flying and catch the hosts off guard, unfortunately it was the reverse as in a mistake riddled game, Simon Mignolet made the first major one.
The corner came in on the hour, Mignolet's punch went nowhere but to the boot of Junior Hoilett, who on the volley simply couldn't miss to put his side one goal up.
We tried to pick up the pace a bit and get back into things, but this wasn't our night. James McClean managed to provide the two best moments for us with some dangerous crosses. The first pulled back for Nicklas Bendtner inside the six-yard box, but Olsson covering did well.
The second really should have been an equalising goal. Seb Larsson's crossing had been off all night, and when he finally did get a good one in, it fell to McClean, who lashed back across goal and substitute Ji Dong-Won with one of the worst misses of the season, putting the ball over an empty net from all of three yards.
Seven minutes later, things went from bad to worse when Yakubu made it 2-0. Steven N'Zonzi did well to slow play down, give the ball to Bradley Orr to cross, and as the song goes, feed the Yak and he will score. Unmarked, he glanced his header into the bottom corner to seal the game.
Phil Bardsley did well to deny Marcus Olsson a third goal in stoppage time, not that at that stage it would really have mattered.
Team (Ratings in brackets)
Starting XI: Mignolet (5), Bardsley (7), Turner (6), Kyrgiakos (6), Bridge (6), Larsson (5), Vaughan (6), Gardner (5), McClean (7), Campbell (5), Bendtner (5)
Subs Used: Colback (6), Dong-Won (5)
Man Of The Match: James McClean - Only just. It was between him and Phil Bardsley as the only two who can come away from tonight with even a modicum of self-respect after a truly awful game and performance.
So that was that. I thought the game would be a tough one, but I really didn't expect this sort of performance. I'm not sure it was even the changes made by O'Neill, as so many players didn't look up for it the inclusions of O'Shea or Colback wouldn't have made much of an impact.
There seemed to be a lack of desire, passion, rhythm, chances... anything. It would still be 2-0 if we played until midnight with the Blackburn side tucked up in their beds.
A timely reminder that things can change very quickly in football, and whilst we are quick to praise, we're also quick to say what's not on, and that performance tonight simply wasn't good enough to beat a team struggling at the bottom of the league.
We have to do better this weekend against QPR. Mind, we probably will, it can't get much worse than tonight's performance.
In MON We Trust.