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Ewood Park | 27th August 2011 15:00

Blackburn Rovers v Everton

Tim Howard produced a masterclass in goalkeeping to exorcise his Ewood Park ghosts and help Everton escape Blackburn with maximum points.

Three penalties were awarded on the day – two missed by the hosts – before Mikel Arteta held his nerve to clinch victory in injury time.

Everton scarcely deserved to be level, let alone in front, and there was more than a slice of luck about the award - Fellaini going down under a robust aerial challenge.

But Arteta couldn’t have cared less as he sent Paul Robinson the wrong way to give his side a first league win of the season.

Mikel Arteta penaltyMikel Arteta holds his nerve to help Everton to victory.

Junior Hoilett had been the first Blackburn player to blunder from 12 yards as Everton glovesman Howard produced a smart save low to his left.

Mauro Formica, whose dramatics had earned that initial spot kick, then had another go – karmic retribution seeing the Argentine work the post with a wayward strike.

A year ago in this same fixture Howard had played the fall-guy as he gifted Rovers a winner with a late error – this year he was cast in a very different role.

For Everton fans the villain was Formica, the Rovers substitute producing a cameo for an audience of one – referee Lee Mason twice enamoured by his penalty box antics. 

Ross Barkley was the first to fall foul. His mistake let in the Blackburn forward who then turned the Blues youngster before tumbling dramatically to the deck. The 17-year-old had dangled a leg but Formica's fall had a distinct air of kidology about it.

Howard had been a tower of strength under the high ball all afternoon and he once again stood up to be counted when his team needed him, plunging low to his left to repel Hoilett’s strike and ensure justice prevailed.

The Blues started the game looking to avoid consecutive Premier League defeats for the first time since November 2009 following last week’s shock reverse against QPR.

In fact, and it is testament to Moyes and the team he has built, that they have only been left to mull over a double dose of defeat twice in the past four seasons.

Leighton Baines – starting his 69th consecutive match – has been integral to that consistency and his qualities were there for all to see as he clinically snuffed out an early Rovers raid with a slide tackle so clean that a befuddled Hoilett was still doing stepovers long after Baines had cleared his lines.

That was a minor worry for the visitors who had settled reasonably well but they – and Howard’s upright – were left rattled as David Dunn squirmed beyond a couple of groping defenders and hacked a shot across goal and against the foot of the post.

There hadn’t been much in it but with just 34 minutes gone Steve Kean was forced into a double substitution with Formica and Radoslav Petrovic replacing David Dunn and Morten Gamst Pedersen who had both pulled up lame.

Blackburn (A)Victor Anichebe battles with Christopher Samba.

Their laboured exits were typical of a turgid opening period and the interval came as welcome relief for all.

A well-executed throw in early in the second might have eclipsed the entertainment produced thus far, yet instead the game exploded into controversy within a minute of the break.

Formica took centre stage to win the game's first spot kick - only to be instantly deposed by the excellent Howard.

Everton seized the reprieve and once they had settled down began to look like they might create something themselves on an afternoon of meagre invention from the visitors.

The introduction of Tim Cahill and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov helped and the Russian was involved as Victor Anichebe bulldozed down the left and cut back expertly for Fellaini to blaze over the top.

At the other end David Goodwillie, summoned from the bench, went much closer as he clipped the top of Howard’s bar.

Moments later Goodwillie was again involved as he squared for Formica to prod goalwards, Howard again thwarting the hosts with another great stop.

Junior Hoilett is denied from the spot by Tim HowardJunior Hoilett is denied from the spot by Tim Howard
 
The Blues were on the rack and they looked as if clinging on to stalemate was their best hope.

Yet when Formica again flung himself to the turf - this time under the challenge of Phil Jagielka - that aim appeared to have evaporated. But once again the hosts failed to capitalise, the Argentine cracking the ball off the post.

And in a late foray forward Fellaini was felled by the beastly Chris Samba prompting Mason to award a third penalty of the afternoon.

Where Hoilett and Formica had failed, Arteta showed a steely nerve to outwit Robinson and seal an improbable maximum.

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