Opening day defeat could be blessing in disguise

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If any Evertonian is looking for a straw to clutch, then they should remember that the last time they lost to Blackburn on the opening day of the season they went on to reach the FA Cup Final.

That game saw Blackburn come from behind and score a last-minute winner, but unfortunately a repeat of that scenario in Everton’s favour never looked likely at Ewood Park on Saturday.

It’s not that Blackburn particularly outclassed Everton in their 1-0 victory, simply that they successfully stifled the play of the men in pink who had no answer to their organised and effective tactics.

The game was a far cry from April’s five goal thriller between the two sides.

What were the problems on Saturday? Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar showed some promise down the left but it wasn’t until the 90th minute that Everton forced Paul Robinson into a meaningful save.

The lack of a player who feels comfortable playing on the far right was also telling; Leon Osman tried manfully but the fact it isn’t his best position was highlighted on a few occasions.

The travelling Evertonians grew increasingly frustrated as the game wore on as their team simply lacked a cutting edge.

The team’s passing was neat and tidy at times but it lacked potency and rarely threatened to break through the strong Blackburn rearguard.

It’s difficult to take any particular positives from an opening day defeat, especially after a pre-season in which optimism grew week by week. It’s worth remembering that Blackburn are not a pushover, especially at Ewood Park.

In fact, the scenario that played out on Saturday – lots of neat passing from the visitors without really threatening to break past an impressively well drilled back line – reminded me of Chelsea’s visit to Blackburn back in March.

That game finished 1-1 and seemed to signal the end of Chelsea’s title ambitions. Sam Allardyce may have his critics in the game but his teams are notoriously difficult to play against on their home turf.

There is no doubt that Everton will have to improve, particularly with the visit of Wolves on Saturday in mind. Mick McCarthy’s men frustrated the Toffees when the teams last met in a 0-0 draw at Molineux in March and will undoubtedly seek to repeat the feat.

Losing the first game of the season is never nice, but there’s little point in becoming despondent just yet and I remain as confident in the team as I was in my season preview last week.

We knew the main flaw in the team was the lack of a strong, comfortable right midfielder and nothing’s changed.

It’d be nice if Moyes were able to address that before the deadline closes and Landon Donovan’s interview over the weekend suggested he is still clinging to the hope of a return to England. However, the rumoured lack of finance may hinder those attempts.

Nevertheless, Wolves at home offers a good opportunity to chalk up the team’s first points and the first home game of a new season is always something to look forward to.

*Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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