Barclays Premier League: Blackburn Rovers 2, Norwich City 0
PUBLISHED: 17:00 21 April 2012 | UPDATED: 15:56 23 April 2012
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Goals either side of half-time from Mauro Formica and Junior Hoilett were enough to see off the challenge of Norwich City at Ewood Park – and give relegation-threatened Blackburn Rovers three precious Premier League points.
Top scorer Yakubu had just struck the post when Formica opened the scoring four minutes before the interval, giving goalkeeper John Ruddy no chance with a volley from Marcus Olsson’s cross.
Hoilett, who had scored in the 3-3 draw at Carrow Road earlier in the season, added the second for Blackburn with a superb curling shot, four minutes into the second half.
Rovers ’keeper Paul Robinson made one decent save in each half – from Jonny Howson and substitute Aaron Wilbraham – but the former England man was certainly not overworked by the below-par Canaries.
It was the first defeat Paul Lambert’s men had suffered this season against a team in the bottom five of the Premier League, and it maintained their poor record at Blackburn, where they have won only once in their history.
Striker James Vaughan was given his first start for the Canaries after an injury-ravaged season that had previously brought just four outings as a substitute. He played for an hour before making way for Steve Morison.
Vaughan was making his first appearance for nine weeks after a hamstring problem, while Wes Hoolahan and Andrew Surman were also recalled to the starting eleven.
Bradley Johnson, Anthony Pilkington – back in his home town – and Aaron Wilbraham were the three players to make way from the starting eleven that faced Manchester City, all of them on the bench.
Blackburn were without defender Grant Hanley, out for the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury. Top scorer Yakubu shook off a knee problem, however, while Junior Hoilett recovered from a hamstring injury and full-back Bradley Orr played after concerns over an Achilles problem.
Vaughan, wearing bright orange boots, won a corner in the opening minute, Holt heading over from Surman’s kick.
Holt then had a shot blocked by Orr and Elliott Bennett fired wide from long range as City started brightly.
Russell Martin had to concede the first corner at the other end with a header from Orr’s cross. Dann got his head to Pedersen’s kick but Holt was able to clear.
Ward conceded a corner on the opposite side, but the same player was back to head clear from another Pedersen kick.
Hoolahan was left hobbling after a foul and from the resulting free-kick by Ward, Holt forced Robinson to save, diving to his right.
Vaughan had his first real chance after 10 minutes when Surman hooked back Elliott Bennett’s cross, but he miskicked from 10 yards and the ball appeared to hit his standing foot.
A foul by Ryan Bennett on Yakubu gave Rovers a free-kick that Pedersen swung into the penalty area, the ball appearing to brush Russell Martin’s hand as the defender jumped, but referee Friend giving a goal-kick.
Vaughan was lectured for a raised arm on Givet, though the Frenchman appeared to make the most of the incident.
There was a scare for City on 21 minutes when Ruddy was unable to hold Hoilett’s cross from the right and Ryan Bennett’s first touch knocked the ball goalwards before he recovered smartly to hook it clear.
Dunn was booked for a foul on Elliott Bennett, the first yellow card of the afternoon, but as Rovers pressed, Formica left fly with a shot that deflected out off Drury.
With half an hour gone, Howson provided the highlight of the half so far with a swerving 25-yard drive that keeper Robinson had to tip over the top, and shortly afterwards,
Ryan Bennett headed wide from a Surman corner.
Howson was booked for a foul on Formica after a pass by Russell Martin left him short.
Blackburn came desperately close to a goal seven minutes before the break when a superb cross from Hoilett was headed back by Pedersen and Yakubu set himself for an overhead kick that struck the post and bounced away to safety.
That goal came four minutes before the interval, however, through Formica, his fourth of the season.
It was a well-worked move though the defending was fairly non-existent. Hoilett sent Yakubu away on the left and the striker pulled the ball back to Olsson, whose cross towards the six-yard box was met on the volley by the unmarked Formica, who gave Ruddy no chance.
• Half-time: Blackburn Rovers 1, Norwich City 0
Vaughan was unhappy about being caught in the face by Givet early in the second half as he tried to get on the end of a pass by Surman.
But the Canaries had more to worry about after 49 minutes when Hoilett scored a superb second goal. Taking possession wide on the left, he weaved inside past Russell Martin and curled in a right-foot shot from the corner of the penalty area that beat Ruddy’s despairing leap to his left.
Drury suffered a knock soon after play resumed and needed treatment before continuing.
Blackburn were buzzing now and a cross from Hoilett was only just out of reach of Yakubu as they threatened a third goal.
There was a double change for City with just over half an hour to go when Morison and Pilkington replaced Vaughan and Hoolahan.
Blackburn made their first change when Dunn made way for Martin Olsson.
With 66 minutes gone, Lambert made his final change when Wilbraham replaced Holt, Drury taking over as captain.
Pilkington did well to carve out a chance for City after 72 minutes but Wilbraham moved just too soon and his cross rolled behind the striker.
Moments later, Wilbraham forced Robinson to save low to his right with a smart effort, and he was close again seconds later when he could not quite get his head to the ball at the post after Ryan Bennett challenged Pedersen for the corner.
Blackburn replaced Yakubu with Modeste and then Hoilett needed treatment after a sliding challenge by Drury that angered the home crowd.
Dann headed over from a corner with 10 minutes to go as Blackburn looked to make the game safe.
With seven minutes left, Hoilett made way for Petrovic in Rovers’ final change.
Petrovic tried an ambitious long-range effort as the minutes ticked away, but Ruddy got back to collect.
• Result: Blackburn Rovers 2, Norwich City 0
• Blackburn Rovers: Robinson; Orr, Dann, Givet, Marcus Olsson; Lowe; Formica, Dunn (Martin Olsson, 62), Pedersen; Hoilett (Petrovic, 83), Yakubu (Modeste, 76). Subs: Kean, Nzonzi, Rochina, Goodwillie.
• Norwich City: Ruddy; Russell Martin, Ryan Bennett, Ward, Drury; Howson; Elliott Bennett, Surman; Hoolahan (Pilkington, 59); Vaughan (Morison, 59), Holt (Wilbraham, 66). Subs (not used): Steer, Naughton, Fox, Bradley Johnson.
• Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)
• Attendance: 23,218
• Goals: Blackburn: Formica (41), Hoilett (49).
• Bookings: Blackburn: Dunn (28). City: Howson (34)