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Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Saturday, 20 December 2008

Blackburn 3-0 Stoke

By Phil McNulty

Benni McCarthy
Benni McCarthy celebrates putting Blackburn ahead against Stoke

Sam Allardyce's Blackburn Rovers reign got off to the perfect start with an impressive win against Stoke City.

Benni McCarthy's penalty, awarded after Ibrahima Sonko fouled Morten Gamst Pedersen, opened the scoring in the ninth minute.

Jason Roberts bundled home the second from close range and McCarthy turned in a third before half-time.

Roberts was denied by Stoke keeper Steve Simonsen after the break and McCarthy also shot against the post.

Allardyce will have been delighted by the endeavour and cutting edge displayed by his new team, while Stoke City's display was the perfect illustration of why they have not won away from home in the Premier League this season.

Stoke did manage a revival of sorts in the second half, but Blackburn were never in serious danger of seeing their lead clawed back.

New boss Allardyce was given a rousing reception when he was introduced to the Blackburn fans prior to kick-off - and they were rapturous again after a dream first 45 minutes for Paul Ince's successor.

Roque Santa Cruz was ruled out with a calf strain sustained in training on Friday, but McCarthy and Roberts hinted that life will go on at Blackburn if the striker, who is again being linked with a move to Manchester City, leaves Ewood Park in January.

Stoke lost keeper Thomas Sorensen with a finger injury in the warm-up, and deputy Simonsen soon found himself picking the ball out of the net.

Referee Peter Walton had a simple decision when Sonko's horribly mistimed tackle felled Pedersen, and McCarthy blasted home the spot-kick.

'Near perfect' Rovers delight Allardyce

Blackburn doubled their lead after 18 minutes, Roberts scrambling home from close range after Brett Emerton's cross rebounded into his path off Ryan Shawcross.

Allardyce's new charges were out of sight nine minutes later when McCarthy slotted in from 12 yards after Simonsen had saved from the former Porto striker.

Stoke pressed to try and gain a foothold in the game after the break and almost succeeded, with Amdy Faye heading over from inside the six-yard area and Glenn Whelan curling a 20-yard free-kick just wide.

Roberts should have added his second and Blackburn's fourth with 15 minutes left, but Simonsen plunged at his feet to save as he raced clear.

'Abysmal defending' annoys Pulis

McCarthy almost grabbed his hat-trick from the resulting corner but his powerful low drive bounced away off the outside of an upright.

Stoke had at least threatened after the interval, and Seyi Olifinjana's 20-yard shot brought a fine save from Blackburn keeper Paul Robinson, with Ricardo Fuller steering the rebound wide.

Richard Cresswell then saw his shot strike the woodwork but Blackburn were in control and Allardyce's mission to save them from the drop is up and running.

Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce:
"I would have to be pretty nit-picking to say that wasn't as perfect as I would have wanted it.

"We have still got a long way to go to get out of trouble, but it is a very nice start. I just tried to give the lads a few pointers, but the big contribution came from the players.

"They showed a real desire and commitment to compete with a Stoke City side that is very difficult to play against.

"We showed a lot of quality in and around the box and the victory was built from a clean sheet mentality in the team."

Stoke manager Tony Pulis:
"In the first 20 minutes they came into our box three times and scored three goals.

"Our defending was abysmal and it cost us because the game is basically over when you're three goals down.

"We need people that are going to stand up and we need concentration levels far better than what we showed."

Blackburn: Robinson, Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Emerton (Simpson 85), Dunn (Kerimoglu 70), Andrews, Pedersen, McCarthy (Derbyshire 79), Roberts. Subs Not Used: Brown, Khizanishvili, Mokoena, Judge.

Goals: McCarthy 9 pen, Roberts 18, McCarthy 27.

Stoke: Simonsen, Shawcross, Sonko, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Delap (Soares 59), Whelan, Amdy Faye (Olofinjana 75), Cresswell, Pericard (Tonge 59), Fuller. Subs Not Used: Sorensen, Pugh, Davies, Wilkinson.

Booked: Amdy Faye, Cresswell.

Att: 23,004

Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Blackburn's Benni McCarthy 8.57 (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.

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see also
Allardyce to act over Santa Cruz
20 Dec 08 |  Blackburn
Live text - Premier League
20 Dec 08 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
20 Dec 08 |  Football

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