Everton 2-0 Blackburn: Osman strike & Baines penalty bolster Toffees' European charge
A strong second half performance from David Moyes leaves the hosts still in with a shout of Europa League football next season having dispatched of a lacklustre Blackburn side
By Jonathan Birchall at Goodison Park
A lacklustre first half display from both sides offered very little promise of entertainment in the second but the hosts rallied to secure all three points with goals coming from Leon Osman and Leighton Baines, who dispatched a superb penalty with quarter of an hour remaining.
Rightly impressed with his side's 3-0 victory over Wolves last weekend, David Moyes named an unchanged side to the one that proved so dominant at Molineux, providing a little consistency to a club that have shown far too little on the pitch this campaign.
Steve Kean, meanwhile, was forced to start without recent talisman Junior Hoilett, with the Canadian youngster having been sidelined with a hamstring injury. However, as one promising youngster bowed out of the starting line-up, the opportunity for another to come in presented itself in the form of Ruben Rochina, with the former Barcelona man coming in for his first start.
An end-of-season air hung over Goodison as the sides countered each other's early efforts and it was a moment of lethargy, typical of such an occasion that nearly led to an opener for the home side. Having broken through the visitors' defence latching on to a Gueye header, Beckford lashed a wild effort over from only six yards out. He certainly should have given his side the lead, though the promise of a leaky opposition defence offered glee to a somewhat subdued Everton crowd.
The hosts had started much the better side and were only quelled by some sublime defending from the imposing Chris Samba, as the centre-half looked to calm an ever-increasing sense of danger.
However, only quarter of an hour in, the Everton's chief enforcer in midfield, John Heitinga, was brought off with a suspected pulled hamstring and was replaced by Jack Rodwell, a youngster who is still yet to prove his seemingly endless list of plaudits right at the highest level.
The injury didn't appear to affect the rhythm of the home side who were proving dominant in midfield, if a little toothless as they advanced. As the 25th minute mark passed, Kean's charges had done very little to suggest that they would prove troubling to Everton, for whom a goal seemed a matter of when as opposed to if.
Chances were indeed few and far between, as Everton failed to utilise their possession down the flanks with distribution likely to cause problems. Baines, a man usually so assured with his delivery, was failing to breach Michel Salgado, and his frustrations emanated from the pitch into the terraces as half-time approached.
Cruz cut| Roque Santa Cruz was brought off after failing to threaten the Toffees defence
Blackburn looked to have finally come out of their shell with the half-time whistle perched on the lips of referee Kevin Friend though whether their late endeavours were a statement of intent was wracked with suspicion, having shown very little in terms of attacking prowess.
Everton's dominance transcended into the second half and the hosts were by far the more comfortable, incessantly pressing a lacklustre Rovers outfit. Their willing was to be rewarded less than 10 minutes after the restart, having seen shots from Gueye and Baines narrowly miss the target, the ball fell to Osman to fizz an effort off the impressive Samba and beyond Robinson. A little unfortunate for the centre-half but it was in no way undeserved, as the hosts moved to mow down the relegation strugglers.
It was becoming a case of chasing shadows for Steve Kean's side and much-needed change was implemented. Santa Cruz, who had been poor for much of the game, was reluctantly brought off in place of Jason Roberts just after the hour mark.
Blackburn's problems were worsening as they were penned in by their uncharitable hosts, who were tightening the vice and suffocating the visitors with intense pressure.
It was to prove telling on the 75th minute mark as Seamus Coleman, who had been bright since coming on for Gueye, found space in the box and forced a foul out of the otherwise impressive Phil Jones to win his side a penalty. Baines duly dispatched it, smashing past a helpless Paul Robinson. Calls of 'going down' were levelled at the Rovers faithful, and there was very little suggest they were doing so with much of a fight.
The hosts were in complete control as the final whistle approached and Blackburn, a team who now have cause to panic, were helpless to stop wave after wave of attacks from the side in blue.Everton were to run out worthy winners, continuing a superb run of form as the season nears its conclusion. For their opponents, the final few weeks of this campaign hold little other than the promise of bigger battles to come.
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