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Page last updated at 18:59 GMT, Saturday, 22 March 2008

Blackburn 3-1 Wigan

By Jon Barbuti

Jason Roberts and Roque Santa Cruz celebrate
Jason Roberts and Roque Santa Cruz were a constant threat

Roque Santa Cruz took his tally against Wigan to five for the season as Rovers eased to victory at Ewood Park.

The Paraguayan opened the scoring with a simple header after Chris Kirkland could only parry a David Bentley drive.

Marlon King levelled from the spot after Christopher Samba had been sent off for a tug on Emile Heskey.

But Jason Roberts restored the lead before Santa Cruz headed the third against a Wigan side who had Wilson Palacios dismissed for two bookings.

606: DEBATE
GafferHughes

Before either the game or crowd had warmed up, Wigan suffered an early scare as Kirkland fell heavily in taking a cross.

The Latics keeper was able to continue after lengthy treatment, but his troubles clearly persuaded Blackburn and Bentley in particular to adopt a shoot-on-sight policy.

The England winger had his first effort on eight minutes, shooting from 35 yards and forcing a low, laboured save from Kirkland.

Three minutes later he fired in another from long range and with Kirkland only able to parry, Santa Cruz reacted first to head home his 17th of the season and fourth against Wigan.

Wigan, who had not conceded in their four previous matches, did not manage their first shot until the 15th minute - Palacios volleying at Brad Friedel from 30 yards - yet two minutes later they were level.

Samba allowed Heskey to get the wrong side of him and his tug on the striker as he closed in on goal was deemed worthy of both a penalty and red card, according to referee Mike Dean.

King opened his Wigan account with a penalty that Friedel could get a hand to, but could not quite keep out.

With no shortage of chances, King saw a 20-yard curled shot well saved before Kirkland made a smart save at the other end from a Santa Cruz drive from 10 yards.

The impressive Bentley nearly restored Blackburn's lead on 37 minutes, but his 25 yard free-kick came back off the post.

Moments later, Roberts was denied by a superb Erik Edman block, the Swedish defender jarring his leg in the challenge and going off to be replaced by Ryan Taylor.

Blackburn regained the advantage in the 45th minute, Roberts latching onto his strike partner's flick, turning Emerson Boyce and finishing calmly past Kirkland against his former club.

Both sides had ambitious penalty shouts turned away in the second half before Santa Cruz wasted a glorious opportunity to extend Rovers' lead on the hour mark.

Morten Gamst Pedersen found the space to send in a low left wing cross, but the striker sliced horribly wide.

No matter, three minutes later Bentley went on his own run down the left flank and sent over a perfect cross that Santa Cruz headed powerfully home from 10 yards.

Wigan boss Steve Bruce responded by sending on Marcus Bent who, like Santa Cruz, fired a hat-trick when the Latics beat Blackburn 5-3 earlier in the season.

However, their fate was all but sealed when Palacios received his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card for a foul on David Dunn.

With Wigan devoid of ideas, Blackburn were even afforded the luxury of taking Santa Cruz off early to a well-deserved standing ovation.

  • Blackburn manager Mark Hughes:
    "I thought we were excellent, a lot of big performances today.

    "It was really important we won and I said beforehand the players had to understand the significance of the game and as a consequence we got a really good performance."

    Of Christopher Samba's dismissal, he said: "In the circumstances you usually expect a penalty to be given and that was the case.

    "But the punishment did not fit the crime; they scored the penalty, it is 1-0 and you are down to 10 men."

  • Wigan manager Steve Bruce
    "For the standards we have set both individually and collectively we never got started.

    "Everything went against us. We got a lifeline with the penalty, sticking that away, and I expected us to kick on, but we didn't."

    Of injured Erik Edman, he added: "It looks like a ruptured anterior ligament. If that is the case he is going to be out (until) September or October."


    Blackburn: Friedel, Ooijer, Samba, Khizanishvili, Warnock, Bentley, Reid, Dunn (Mokoena 84), Pedersen, Santa Cruz (McCarthy 89), Roberts (Kerimoglu 78).
    Subs Not Used: Brown, Derbyshire.

    Goals: Santa Cruz 12, Roberts 45, Santa Cruz 63.

    Sent Off: Samba (16). Booked: Bentley.

    Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Boyce, Scharner, Edman (Taylor 41), Valencia, Brown, Palacios, Kilbane, King (Bent 64), Heskey.
    Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Aghahowa, Bramble.

    Goal: King 17 pen.

    Sent Off Palacios (69).

    Booked: Palacios, Brown, Melchiot.

    Att: 23,541

    Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).


    BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Blackburn's Roque Santa Cruz 7.05 (on 90 minutes).

    Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.




    see also
    Premier League as it happened
    22 Mar 08 |  Premier League
    Saturday's football photos
    22 Mar 08 |  Football
    How to watch Match of the Day
    08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day


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