Premier League - Pedersen double downs Villa
Sun, 21 Nov 11:45:00 2010
Blackburn Rovers moved four points clear of the Premier League relegation zone with a 2-0 win over Aston Villa at Ewood Park.
Morten Gamst Pedersen scored a free-kick on the stroke of half-time to put Rovers ahead in front of their new Indian owners before striking again midway through the second half as Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel had an uncharacteristically uncertain game.
The American was put under constant pressure at set pieces, of which Rovers had many, with players stationed in front of the keeper to cause him problems in claiming deliveries.
That tactic finally paid off in first-half stoppage time when Pedersen sent in a swerving dead-ball after Stephen Warnock had committed a needless free-kick. The ball went over the head of Friedel and into the top corner.
Villa had started brightly, with Stewart Downing forcing a save at the near post from Paul Robinson in only the third minute.
The former England keeper was again called upon to parry Ashley Young's effort from a tight angle with 15 minutes played, but with striker Gabriel Agbonlahor a peripheral figure for Villa the visitors struggled to make the most of their counter-attacks from then on.
Villa boss Gerard Houllier kept faith with the young players who played so well in last weekend's 2-2 draw with Manchester United, although winger Marc Albrighton did not feature after falling ill.
However, the likes of Barry Bannan and Jonathan Hogg could not replicate their performances from that match, and Rovers controlled the midfield in the first half.
That all changed after the break as Villa came flying out of the traps. Ashley Young came close just three minutes into the second half when he first had his rasping strike saved by Robinson and then headed Downing's cross on to the crossbar.
Villa continued to look by far the more threatening side, but Blackburn made their own attacks count when Pedersen scored his fifth goal in as many games for club and country on 66 minutes.
A Blackburn corner was headed back to substitute Mame Biram Diouf. The young Senegalese had his volley blocked but Ryan Nelsen fired in the second ball and Pedersen turned it past Friedel from close range.
New signing Robert Pires made his first Villa appearance just days after signing a short-term deal at the club. The veteran Frenchman replaced Stephen Ireland soon after the goal, but had little impression on the game.
Despite that, Villa continued to press and were unfortunate not to claw at least one goal back.
Downing stung the palms of Robinson with an effort from distance before young Australian midfielder Chris Herd could have scored with his first touch after coming off the bench, but his header from a corner was hacked clear by Michel Salgado.
However, Rovers held on to protect their clean sheet and leapfrog Villa by moving up to 11th in the table.