Blackburn Rovers 2 - West Bromwich Albion 1

Date: Saturday 5th August 2023 
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
Pears, Rankin-Costello (Brittain, 77), Carter, Hyam, Pickering, Travis, Tronstad (Wharton, 59), Szmodics, Dolan, Leonard, Markandy (Hedges, 59)
Unused subs: Hilton, Ennis, Wharton, Buckley, Batty, Garrett
Palmer 4.2, Furlong 4.2, Ajayi 3.7, Kipré 2.6 (Bartley, 72 5.1), Townsend 4.2, Yokuslu 5.1 (Mowatt, 72 4.6), Chalobah 2.9 (Swift, 66 3.9), Phillips 6.0 (Sarmiento, 71 4.9), Molumby 5.1 (Gardner-Hickman, 85 4.3), Wallace 4.5, Thomas-Asante 5.0
Unused subs: Griffiths, Pieters, Fellows, Malcolm
Manager: Carlos Corberán  2.9
Scorers: Markandy (20), Leonard (22); Phillips (50)
Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire) 4.2
Attendance: 16,741   Home Fans 4.6   Away Fans 6.9
Submit your ratings for this game by clicking here: Ratings submitted so far: 10

Brendan Clegg:

Very brief ones as my summer travels have taken me to Bodrum and despite my efforts to pay to watch the game as an overseas supporter on iFollow it proved impossible- no ability to buy on our website or Blackburn’s and nothing by explanation on Google. In the end I found a way to watch but it was patchy.

But no stream was needed to look at the starting lineup and feel a sense of panic having been optimistic a couple of days ago. Kipre’s Bolton inclusion gave me angina as it felt like the shirt was his to lose (and we did lose) so seeing him there over Bartley or Pieters again was a worry.

And then Chalobah, a vacuum of a player, in midfield over Mowatt, Swift or TGH was baffling. I’d have him behind those other 3 in the pecking order even though Swift’s lack of application to talent ratio feels like a throwback to that pre-Megson era of mercenaries.

And so it was… a dominant start full of effort but, as per preseason, we gave away unbelievably cheap goals by losing the ball and then being woeful at the back. One was careless but the 2nd, straight from kickoff, was a disgrace- both coming from Kipre’s side.

For the rest of the half we were all over the place as it was clear to everyone that Blackburn might score with every attack and it was a genuine surprise that they didn’t, and even more of a surprise that no changes were made at half time by our manager.

We did at least come out flying and after a great move should’ve had a pen when Molumby’s effort was clearly blocked by an arm as it was going in from close range.

Moments later Phillips scored a great goal demonstrating effort, skill and quality. We then had a purple patch but couldn’t make the most of big chances, partly because the marauding Molumby playing in an advanced midfield role has no natural goalscoring instinct so for all his energy he either made the wrong runs or lacked the composure to touch and shoot or lay off to others for likely tap-ins.

At the other end it was still a farce with Blackburn missing two big chances, partly through us gambling but again down to defensive weakness.

As we made subs - with Swift, Sarmiento, Mowatt and Bartley in short succession and then TGH late on - we had a short rally before looking totally disjointed and Blackburn managed the ball well enough that we couldn’t really lay a glove on them.

Corberan got 2 yellow cards and was sent off - the first seemed to be after the Molumby penalty wasn’t given, the second I’m not sure of but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d wound himself up so much over his own decisions that he lost the plot a bit.

A bitterly disappointing opener given Blackburn have lost their 2 best players and what our starting 11 could have been. I also thought Blackburn looked a lot fitter and quicker than us and won so many 2nd balls. A painful reminder of how difficult this season will be.

  • Palmer - 6 Delighted he’s staying (for now) but should’ve done better for their second.
  • Furlong - 6 Just about did his job.
  • Semi - 5 Looked nervous and erratic
  • Kipre - 4 Let’s just not kid ourselves, he’s not very good and Bartley has to play.
  • Townsend - 5 Sloppy and weak.
  • Okay - 6 Midfield fell apart when he came off.
  • Chalobah - 5 Bizarre inclusion, I saw little to justify it
  • Molumby - 6 the usual effort but had to do better in forward areas.
  • Wallace - 5 No end product
  • BTA - 6 Worked harder than anyone and tried to make things happen but does get dragged in to petulant fouls which disrupt momentum
  • Phillips - 6 A good goal and we missed his discipline and ball retention when he came off.
  • Sarmiento - 5 Looked like he’ll be a threat but decision making was rusty and he basically didn’t defend so we might need him as a 10, not a winger
  • Swift - 5 Didn’t offer much…
  • Mowatt - 6 Some good set pieces and looked for the ball but didn’t hold the midfield together
  • Bartley - 6 We looked better immediately with him in the back 4
  • TGH - had no opportunities to get on the ball

I thought we’d be better than this so feeling quite deflated.

Kev Buckley:

Fizzy lime goes flat after twenty minutes

Bit of a scramble to get access to the as-live replay for this one as Kayo, last season's streaming service provider, stopped taking the feeds, which has meant signing up directly with BeIn Sports, but, by the end of the game, that felt like the only real change from last season, the "fizzy lime" kit notwithstanding, with the lack of a striker and a left-footed left-winger the most obvious, and ominous, parallels.

Corberan handed the captain's armband to Wallace, presumably, as a few commentators have noted, because he's one of a few sure starters, although whether having a man normally found out wide as the man in charge out on the pitch has to be open to question.

The other surprise for the opening day was the breaking up of the defensive-mid partnership of Molumby and Yokuslu, with the former being pushed up into the "10" role behind the lone, and indeed only, striker, and Chalobah, coming in alongside the latter.

So no Swift in there, nor, despite thoughts aired in the local press about his possible suitability for the "10" role, TGH, both of whom would start on the nine-man bench, alongside the back-from-loan Mowatt. Our other returning long-term loanee, Kipre, would make the eleven, as would Phillips, perhaps the perfect right-footed replacement for the for the now-departed Grant on the left.

Indeed, six minutes in and Townsend would play the nominal "left winger" into space behind the Blackburn back-line but no left foot cross came, with the ball being pulled back on the right foot and the move dried up.

BTA was trying to make things happen and around twelve minutes in spun off his marker and, although now heading away from goal, was given enough of nudge to see him go to ground inside the box. No penalty given, though the replay would not have looked out of place in with a bunch of replays of similar nudges where penalties had been given.

Five minutes later and Phillips would reprise Grant's contributions again, cutting in and getting off a right footed shot that went straight at the keeper, although his decision to punch it away rather than catch it gave it more kudos than it warranted.

As twenty minutes ticked over, Townsend failed to control a clearance midway inside our half and Blackburn, still with a number of players in attacking positions, gobbled up the loose ball and slickly played in one their attackers into the left side of our box from where a nice finish beat Palmer on his outside.

Pretty much straight from the resulting kick-off, albeit with Blackburn pushing up as we went backwards, Kipre underhit was what a poor choice of pass anyway, and once again Blackburn turned the cough-up into another shooting chance, although this time Palmer was beaten at his near post.

Wallace would then get into the box twice in quick succession, with the first occasion seeing him clipped from behind but no penalty given, and the second seeing him dribble across the goal but end up on his weaker left foot and not really test the keeper.

Ten minutes before the break and Palmer would have to dive away to his left to save on the stretch, and whilst BTA would get into the box down the right, his shot from the corner of the box only resulted in a corner on the left, there'd still be time - seven minutes of time allowed for first-half stoppages - for Townsend to need to slide in and prevent a shooting opportunity on the edge of our box from being taken.

BTA getting into the box down the right would be the first action of note in the second half although, after he pulled the ball back behind the defender covering the near post, Molumby didn't let it go to the Albion player to his left, who would have had tap-in, but got off a shot straight at the covering defender and although there were appeals for a handball the shot had hit the player side on rather than with the arm outside of his body. Whether or not that call was got Corberan riled up enough to get booked, we'll never know.

A minute later and Grant, no he's gone now, make that Phillips, would cut in from the left, play a one-two with Wallace and curl a right-footed shot, from a central location on the edge of the box, around a defender and into the net.

Five minutes after we'd halved the deficit Palmer would almost embarrass Yokuslu by playing a short ball to him whilst he had a player right up his arse, but we got away with it, eventually going up the field where, once again BTA would get in down the right, pull the ball back for Molumby, who, once again, didn't let it roll on to the player to his left for the easiest of tap-ins but, in getting the ball caught up in his feet, this time didn't even get a shot off.

Maybe 65 minutes of trying out Molumby as a "10" was more than enough for the manager, as Swift, our nominal "10", was brought on for Chalobah, which saw Molumby going back to playing alongside Yokuslu, although there'd only be a five minute spell with last season's centre-mid three in place before we had a triple substitution: Mowatt replacing Yokuslu; Bartley replacing Kipre and new boy Sarmiento taking over on the left wing from Phillips, with the commentator pointing out that both Yokuslu and Kipre having already been booked might have entered the thinking, and certainly, I had Yokuslu as the best of our players on the day.

Within that five minute spell too, the home side could have doubled their lead: first with an attack down their right that one of their goalscorers pulled right across the goal, and then down their left where there same player

One of the Albion people on a booking, Corberan, would get a straight red with 15 of the 90 to go, although it wasn't clear what got him riled up enough to see him sent to the dressing room, and nor was it clear if he then made the call to make use of our sixth centre-mid player with five to go, TGH coming on for Molumby.

Just before the nine minutes of second half time allowed for stoppages began, Blackburn would have a shout for a penalty but as with Molumby's shot against a side-on player before, the impact with Furlong's arm was made with the arm in-line with the body and again the ref waved play on, and the nine nine minutes would elapse without any change to the scoreline.

I don't think this game told us anything we didn't already know, and, with the same deficiencies in the squad remaining, the only question I found myself asking was: if Chalobah had left for the briefest of Champions League involvements with Maccabi in Israel, would Corberan still have flirted with Molumby as the "10" he clearly isn't, and/or would he have started Mowatt or TGH alongside Yokuslu, and/or maybe tried TGH as the "10" and simply left Molumby and Yokuslu alone to be the deeper pairing and so picked up where they'd left off last season.

With one eye on the future though, once Sarmiento and Maja are fit enough to start, will they be the answer to our wide left and striker problems, or will we just have to wait for Diangana and Dike to get fit?