Controversy in Ewood stalemate
Johnson's goal four minutes from time ruled offside
By Laura Slatcher. Last Updated: 02/02/08 6:04pm
Hard fought: Bentley tussles with Lescott
Blackburn and Everton both maintained their unbeaten record to the new year after an entertaining goalless draw at Ewood Park.
Everton had the ball in the net four minutes from time but Andy Johnson's strike was controversially ruled offside.
Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel had come out of his 18-yard box to clear but was challenged by Everton substitute James Vaughan who squared the ball across to a retreating Johnson.
Roque Santa Cruz had Blackburn's first chance of the game in the second minute after getting in front of Joleon Lescott to latch onto David Bentley's corner, his header going wide.
The second half saw both sides attacking and Everton nearly took the lead in the 63rd minute when Manuel Ferdnandes' strike came off the post.
Everton's quality was illustrated during the opening quarter as Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill and Leon Osman knitted several sequences of intricate passing together.
In the 14th minute, Johnson's neat pass found Arteta in space and the Spaniard quickly shunted possession to Phil Neville out wide on the right flank.
The skipper whipped in a fine cross at pace but Blackburn averted the danger before Johnson fired in another teasing ball two minutes later which forced the recalled Zurab Khizanishvili into a vital clearance.
Rovers midfielder David Dunn earned a yellow card for a cynical foul on Arteta midway through the opening period, which said everything about the perceived threat of Everton's playmaker.
Blackburn's defence then stood mesmerised as Arteta was given the time and space to weave his way on to the edge of the 18-yard box and crack a fierce, low left-footed drive goalwards.
Friedel could only parry the shot back into the danger zone and a desperate Blackburn boot hacked the ball clear.
From the resultant corner on the left by Fernandes, the ball fell to Osman 18 yards from goal and he hit a low right foot shot which missed Friedel's far post by inches.
Bentley, who struggled to reproduce his best form, finally served notice of his threat three minutes before the break with an ambitious 25-yard strike which dipped over Tim Howard's crossbar.
But Everton fashioned their clearest chance yet on the stroke of half-time when Dunn was forced to head the ball off the line from Johnson's diving header after a corner was flicked into his path.
While the first half was a cagey and instantly forgettable affair, the second period was a welcome contrast.
Just 18 seconds of the restart had passed when Bentley collected possession, strode forward and rifled in a low shot which forced Howard into his first save of note.
Two minutes later, Arteta's clever pass found Fernandes unmarked but his low shot was expertly repelled by Friedel.
A series of niggling challenges from both sets of players saw Brett Emerton booked for a late challenge on Arteta, who proved key to a spell of sustained Everton pressure.
Neville's right-wing cross was headed wastefully wide by Osman and then Fernandes saw his 25-yard free-kick beat Friedel but bounce agonisingly back off an upright.
Everton continued to look dangerous and should have claimed victory with five minutes remaining when substitute Vaughan broke clear, beat Friedel to the ball and unselfishly fed the supporting Johnson.
He provided a calm finish into Friedel's empty net but a raised flag from a referee's assistant quickly put paid to his celebrations.
|Blackburn Rovers||Team Statistics||Everton|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||4|
|7||Shots off Target||5|
Barclays Premier League
Barclays Premier League
|10||West Ham United||28||31|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||28||25|