x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Reality check for Allardyce

Blackburn's rout against Manchester United will have brought their manager, dreaming of Europe, down to earth.

Sam Allardyce, left, has been given a target of taking the Blackburn Rovers into Europe.
Sam Allardyce, left, has been given a target of taking the Blackburn Rovers into Europe.

Blackburn's rout against Manchester United will have brought their manager down to Earth, writes Paul Radley.

Best escape - Jara

Steve McQueen? Clint Eastwood? Wentworth Miller? They would all have read this script and said: "Nope, that is just too fanciful for me, it will never work."

Not Gonzalo Jara.

It takes some kind of criminal mastermind to make three red card-worthy offences within the space of a few steps and still escape without either injury or censure.

Getting the opposition's best player sent off in the process was a bonus for West Bromwich Albion's Chilean defender.

First he elbowed the Everton full-back Leighton Baines in the face, then he ran on and barged Steven Pienaar out of the way, before making a two-footed lunge at Mikel Arteta. Baines was left strewn on the ground; Arteta was dismissed for retaliation; and West Brom won 4-1.

Roberto Di Matteo, the West Brom manager, knows a little bit of aggression is necessary for promoted sides wishing to stay in the Premier League. He got that and then some when he landed Jara.

Worst first impression - Allardyce

It is not clear exactly how well informed Venky's, the Indian poultry company, were about the ins and outs of Premier League football when they made their recent takeover of Blackburn Rovers.

If they believed one particular testimony, they might have thought they were inheriting a manager of Mourinho-esque calibre, someone who would win the Champions League at will, were he in charge at Real Madrid or Barcelona.

They might already be doubting Sam Allardyce's perception of his own self worth, following the demolition inflicted on their new investment at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Allardyce has been set a target of taking Rovers into Europe by his new bosses. On the evidence of the 7-1 thrashing his side suffered to Manchester United, such great expectations look more like a pipe-dream.

Worst reunion - Robinson and Chimbonda

Paul Robinson, the Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper, and Pascal Chimbonda, their defender, could certainly not plead ignorance.

They knew the merits of Dimitar Berbatov only too well from their days together at Tottenham Hotspur.

From the look of how they defended against the Manchester United striker in their 7-1 capitulation, they have been missing him greatly.

So much so they wanted to shower him with presents.

At least the Bulgarian forward enjoyed the reunion.

His five-goal salvo was the joint top haul by any player in a Premier League match, and a curt reminder of his ability to those who questioned the wisdom of the large outlay it cost to take him to United.

It was also one better than his previous best, the four he managed for Spurs in their 6-4 win over Reading, when Robinson and Chimbonda then ranked among his teammates

Best pass - Tuncay

Saturday was a beautiful day for the Beautiful Game. A Goal of the Day competition would have made for more compelling viewing than the vast majority of the monthly varieties from the past.

Perhaps surprisingly, the most exquisitely created goal was provided not by the coruscating feet of Samir Nasri or Andrey Arshavin, Dimitar Berbatov or Wayne Rooney.

Instead, it arrived from the unlikely source of Stoke City. Tony Pulis's side have a hard-earned reputation for being hard-nosed and physical, with most of their goals arriving via a long throw or long cross.

Yet Tuncay proved they can do guile as well, when he set up Matthew Etherington's late leveller against Manchester City.

The Turkish forward's back-heel was neatly weighted on the snowy surface, skidding into his left-winger's path so perfectly he did not have to break stride before smashing his shot past Joe Hart to make it 1-1.

Best header - Ashley Cole

Ask the majority of people in England's north east, from where his former wife, Cheryl Tweedy, hails, and they will tell you Ashley Cole has not used his head enough in recent times.

He did so with good effect yesterday, though, and deprived Newcastle United three points in the process.

After Petr Cech, the Chelsea goalkeeper, muddled a cross to the feet of Wayne Routledge, then went walk about outside his penalty area, his left-back spied danger.

Cole promptly retreated to his goal-line and hurled himself at the ensuing drive from Newcastle's winger as it arrowed towards the goal.

He probably still has ringing in his ears after he successfully turned away the ferocious goalbound effort.

At least it blocks out the sound of the boos.