A long-time reader and soccer fan reports on a stunning English Premier League result:
In one of the biggest upsets in recent English soccer history, Blackburn Rovers defeated Manchester United 3-2 on Saturday, at Old Trafford in Manchester. United entered the match tied for first place on points (though second to Manchester City on goal difference). Blackburn sat at the very bottom of the Table.
Moreover, Man U had crushed Blackburn 7-1 in last season’s corresponding match. With United coming off of back-to-back 5-0 wins, and hoping to provide manager Sir Alex Ferguson with a suitable 70th birthday present, it was reasonable to expect the Mancs to administer a similar hiding on Saturday.
Yet Blackburn jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the second half. To no one’s surprise, United promptly leveled the score and went searching for the winner. But Sir Alex’s side seemed to run out of ideas, and Blackburn scored the winner in the 80th minute.
In fairness to United, they were not at full strength. Top-scorer Wayne Rooney was omitted from the side due to “fitness reasons” or as punishment for a “boozy night out,” depending on whom you believe. More importantly, injuries forced Man U to rely on the unusual central defensive partnership of midfielder Michael Carrick and 19 year-old Phil Jones, whose best position at this stage of his career may also be midfield.
But Blackburn too played at less than full strength. Beleaguered manager Steve Kean found himself relying on a back-up goalkeeper, a 17 year-old left back, and three other players under the age of 21. One of the youngsters, Grant Hanley, scored the winning goal.
The real key to the match, though, was the poor goalkeeping of Man U’s David De Gea. The Spaniard was clearly to blame for Blackburn’s late winner, and probably should have saved the second goal.
Man-of-the match honors went to Yakubu, who contributed two goals. The well-traveled Nigerian forward spent the last four seasons at Everton, and is probably the best natural finisher the Toffees have had in the decade or so that I’ve been able to watch Everton matches regularly. Yet somehow he was deemed surplus to requirements and sold for a song to Rovers this past off-season.
Half a season later, the Yak has scored 12 Premier League goals in 13 matches. Meanwhile, Everton’s forwards have a combined total of 5 goals in 18 matches, and team’s total scoring output stands at just 19.
At Everton, the crowd used to sing “feed the Yak and he will score,” a reference to Yakubu’s prowess in the front of net and, perhaps, at the dinner table. Unfortunately, the Yak is now being fed by Blackburn. In return, he is keeping them afloat.