Paul Gallagher and Paul Dickov grabbed the goals as Blackburn moved off the foot of the Premiership table by claiming an impressive win at Fulham, who are dropping deeper into the relegation battle themselves.
Gallagher gave Rovers the dream start by guiding home Steven Reid’s cross for his second goal in as many games after ten minutes at Craven Cottage. Tomasz Radzinski spurned an inviting chance to equalise straight away and Brad Friedel denied former Blackburn forward Andy Cole before Dickov calmly put away a penalty after Zat Knight was sent off for handball. Their victory leaves the visitors just a point behind Fulham, meaning Chris Coleman has to seriously contemplate scrapping against the drop as the Whites’ miserable run of form continues.
Blackburn made the sharper start with Dickov doing well down the right flank and digging out a low cross for Brett Emerton, who perhaps should have done better than firing into the side netting from close range. Rovers didn’t rue that mess for too long, however. Reid, who had looked lively in the opening stages, glided away from the Fulham defence at a throw in and nobody tracked Gallagher’s run, allowing the Scot to head home at the front post.
Fulham should have equalised within three minutes. Papa Bouba Diop sent Radzinski away and, once the offside flag stayed down, he looked favourite to beat Friedel but the Canadian international rolled his shot wide of goal. In an increasingly open contest, Dickov could have doubled Blackburn’s lead when Knight failed to clear a high ball, slipping and presenting possession to the centre forward, who was denied by Mark Crossley on the edge of his own box.
The normally-dependable Knight stumbled as he tried to clear an up-an-under punt forwards, only succeeding in knocking the ball straight into the path of the Scot on the edge of the box. Mark Crossley was, though, out quickly to make a block with his legs.
Rovers continued to look the more dangerous of the sides into the second half. Dickov darted away from his marker to reach Emerton’s searching cross but diverted a diving header agonisingly wide of goal. Fulham fashioned a couple of great opportunities just before the hour. First, Lucas Neill thwarted Radzinski with a magnificent saving tackle as the ex-Everton forward appeared destined to turn home Cole’s cross and then the former England international was denied by a brilliant save by Friedel when he dashed clear following confusion in the visiting defence.
Coleman was forced into a change in goal when Crossley limped off with a knee injury and Fulham’s hopes of forcing a late equaliser evaporated once Knight was shown a second yellow card for handling the ball as he slid in to try and dispossess Dickov. The striker took the spot-kick himself, sending van der Sar the wrong way from twelve yards, and confirming that Fulham are very much in the relegation battle.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Crossley (van der Sar 73); Volz, Bocanegra, Knight, Rehman; Diop, Pembridge, Legwinski (McBride 66); Malbranque, Radzinski, Cole. Subs (not used): Pearce, Rosenior, Hammond.
BOOKED: Diop, Knight.
SENT OFF: Knight.
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Short, Todd, Johansson (Matteo 90); Reid, Ferguson, Tugay, Emerton; Dickov, Gallagher (Thompson 83). Subs Not Used: Enckelman, Flitcroft, Pedersen.
GOALS: Gallagher (10), Dickov (pen 77).
REFEREE: Rob Styles (Hampshire).
REFEREE: Rob Styles (Hampshire).