Shabani Nonda and Benni McCarthy scored the goals as Blackburn broke their six-game domestic winless streak by beating a below-par Fulham at Ewood Park this afternoon.
Jan Lastuvka endured a nightmare start to his league debut as he was caught out of position for the opening goal, allowing Nonda to hook home a hopeful punt from Stephane Henchoz. The luckless Czech keeper, deputising for the injured Antti Niemi, had absolutely no chance of stopping the second when McCarthy’s strike took a wicked deflection off Ian Pearce.
Fulham made no impression on Brad Friedel’s goal until the American had to gather a late Claus Jensen free-kick and Mark Hughes’ men could easily have won by a greater margin. Another defensive blunder from Liam Rosenior let in Morten Gamst Pedersen but the winger miscued his shot. Lastuvka did make excellent saves to keep out Brett Emerton and Lucas Neill on either side of half time – but the damage had been done by then.
McCarthy missed a gift-wrapped chance to make it three in the closing stages and Coleman admitted afterwards that his tinkering with the formation that proven so successful against Arsenal was a mistake. “I hold my hands up,” the Fulham manager said afterwards. “I changed the shape of the team against Blackburn and it never worked. It was a fantastic performance in midweek but very taxing. We should have closed ranks if we were tired and denied Blackburn but we were slow and sluggish in the first half and did not defend like we should.”
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Henchoz, Ooijer, Gray; Emerton, Savage, Bentley (Mokoena 85), Pedersen; Nonda (Peter 81), McCarthy (Derbyshire 89). Subs (not used): Brown, Gallagher.
BOOKED: Savage, Henchoz.
GOALS: Nonda (6), McCarthy (24).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Lastuvka; Volz, Rosenior, Pearce, Knight; Brown, Diop, C. Jensen, Boa Morte (Radzinski 64); Helguson (McBride 69), John (Routledge 75). Subs (not used): Batista, Christanval.
BOOKED: Helguson, Diop.
REFEREE: Steve Bennett (Kent).