If the hallmark of a fine team is that they find a way to win a game even when performing below par, perhaps the stamp of a struggling side is that they contrive to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Blackburn Rovers provided an example after being gifted two penalties. To miss one may be considered unfortunate. To spurn both went beyond carelessness and, after also hitting the woodwork twice, to lose to the afternoon's third spot-kick was cruel.
"It's a ruthless business and you have got to stick your penalties away," Steve Kean said, sighing. His side's profligacy came at a cost, as Mikel Arteta opened Everton's account for the season and left Blackburn still pointless. Its award was, like much else, a subject for debate as the referee, Lee Mason, ensured this match compensated in controversy what it lacked in quality.
Christopher Samba leapt with Marouane Fellaini and thought he had won a header legally. "I've seen it real-time and in slow motion and I just can't see how it can be a penalty," Kean said. Mason ruled otherwise and David Moyes agreed. "I thought ours was justified, Samba has his hands on his [Fellaini's] shoulders," he said. Whichever, Arteta retained his composure to beat Paul Robinson.
To add to the sense of confusion, Arteta was not the designated penalty taker. "Bainesey [Leighton Baines] normally takes them," Moyes said, bemused by the sudden change in the pecking order. "I don't care as long as it goes in the back of the net."
Blackburn, too, had required a rapid rethink after their spot-kick specialist, David Dunn, limped off in the first half. "At least they [Junior Hoilett and Mauro Formica] showed the bottle to take them," Kean said.
However, the first, awarded immediately after half-time, amounted to a chastening passage for the precocious Ross Barkley. The Everton teenager first passed straight to Formica and, attempting to make amends, was deemed to have tripped the Argentinian. Hoilett's penalty had neither the power nor the precision required and Tim Howard palmed it away.
Formica earned a second spot-kick when challenged by Phil Jagielka and took it himself, but squandered the opportunity by side-footing against the post. Moyes felt justice had been done. "The two [penalties] Blackburn got are both dives," Moyes insisted, suggesting video evidence supports his verdict. "I think the boy goes down too easily for both."
Kean, predictably, disagreed. His complaints went beyond that, adding: "We controlled the game from start to finish." It was an overstatement but, while Everton's efforts consisted of two off-target attempts from Leon Osman, a stinging drive from Baines and a ballooned shot from Fellaini, Blackburn came rather closer in open play.
They rattled the woodwork first when Dunn shot against the inside of the post and when David Goodwillie, two minutes after his introduction, clipped the crossbar with a rising shot. "We know we can play an awful lot better," Moyes added. But I don't know if luck comes into anything. You take what you get." And Blackburn got a lesson in penalty taking.
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