Blackburn Rovers 3 Burnley 2: match report
If anticipation serves only to heighten pleasure, the same could be said of disappointment. For more than 40 years, Burnley have waited, increasingly impatiently, to face Blackburn Rovers, their oldest, fiercest rivals, as equals on the highest stage in the land. With every passing year, the absence has been felt ever more keenly. How they must wish their wait was not over. The circumstances should have been ideal. Owen Coyle’s side may be the Premier League new boys, but their freewheeling, effervescent style had won them four games and countless admirers. They travelled to Ewood Park seven places above their struggling hosts. Their travelling fans, bussed in especially to keep them out of trouble, arrived full of vim and vigour, confident of their claim to East Lancashire’s bragging rights. Jack Walker’s millions may have bought Blackburn primacy and prestige, but Burnley have the air of a coming force. Little wonder they were so noisy as, under the watchful eye of hundreds of police and stewards, they made their presence felt. After 45 minutes, though, they were silenced. The good humour which greeted their three-goal defeat at Chelsea, the four conceded at Anfield and Tottenham’s 5-0 rout had disappeared. This was too much. It had all started so well, too. Robbie Blake gave Coyle’s side the lead after just four minutes – their first strike away from home this season – his goal encapsulating the difference in approach between the two teams. A set-piece, launched long by the hosts, proved fruitless, Wade Elliott broke with pace and skill, handed the baton to the veteran, loitering on the left wing, and saw Blake fizz a 25-yard shot past Paul Robinson. Cue bedlam. It was not to last. Blackburn, dispensing momentarily with their famed functionality, put together a move of which Coyle would be proud, Morten Gamst Pedersen sweeping the ball to Franco di Santo, the Argentine laying it into the path of the onrushing David Dunn and the midfielder, once on the books of the visitors, sweeping home. It seemed to break Burnley. Their passing grew sloppy, their marking slipshod. When they fell behind, it was to the sort of goal which serves to make a manager’s blood boil, even one as collected as Coyle. Chris Samba, a menace all day, headed Dunn’s free kick across the area, Brian Jensen appeared to collide with a mixture of Stephen Jordan and di Santo, slipped, and could only watch in baffled impotence as Graham Alexander headed the ball to the Argentine, two yards out, for the simplest of goals. Worse was to come, Pedersen knocking Keith Andrews’s ball into the path of Pascal Chimbonda, the only man on the pitch in long sleeves, who skipped inside Fletcher and curled a neat finish beyond Jensen. There was to be no way back, despite Chris Eagles's injury time consolation, meeting Jordan's cross and seemingly scuffing his shot past Robinson. Burnley can now only wait. They are used to it, after all.
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