Blackburn 2-0 Sunderland: Brereton Diaz strike boosts Rovers to summit
Blackburn went top of the Sky Bet Championship as Ben Brereton Diaz’s stunning goal on his 100th Rovers start helped them to a 2-0 win over Sunderland.
In an even game, Jon Dahl Tomasson’s men did what they are becoming accustomed to doing and put their opponents to the sword with a display of clinical finishing, exemplified by Brereton Diaz’s magnificent opener from Blackburn’s first shot on target for his eighth goal of the season.
That lead was doubled early in the second half through Scott Wharton’s header and, although Sunderland rallied, Rovers expertly saw the game out to register their fourth consecutive home win and go two points clear at the Championship summit.
It was an unhappy return to Ewood Park for Tony Mowbray, who may have felt aggrieved his side were denied a penalty moments before the opening goal but will ultimately rue the lack of cutting edge, highlighted by the Chile international he brought to Blackburn.
Jake Garrett made his first league start for Blackburn, who were without suspended captain Lewis Travis. Former Rovers midfielder Corry Evans returned from suspension to captain Sunderland.
The Black Cats should have been ahead two minutes in but Dennis Cirkin dragged his effort wide, and Alex Pritchard almost profited from a wayward Brereton Diaz pass midway through the half, curling over.
The game turned in less than a minute when Sunderland thought they should have had a penalty after Jack Clarke went down under Ryan Hedges’ challenge. Referee Craig Pawson was unmoved and from Blackburn’s subsequent counter, Brereton Diaz ran onto the half-cleared ball to curl a sumptuous left-footed strike into the top corner from 25 yards in the 32nd minute.
Clarke’s header forced a save from Thomas Kaminski before the break, and the keeper did even better to claw away Pritchard’s free-kick which was destined for the top corner.
But clinical Rovers doubled their advantage with their second shot on target in the 49th minute as Hedges whipped in an inch perfect free-kick that left Wharton with a simple close-range header.
If anything, the goal sparked Sunderland into life, with Patrick Roberts embarking on a mazy run through the Blackburn final third but failing to get a shot away and, moments later, Danny Batth’s header was parried by Kaminski as the visiting fans drove their team on.
Blackburn were always a threat as the game opened up, but Brereton Diaz got his shot all wrong on the hour, and Sam Gallagher’s improvised effort sailed just wide.
Substitute Jewison Bennett’s fierce near-post shot stung the palms of Kaminski late on before Hedges almost scored a goal-of-the-season contender with the last kick of the game only for his 40-yard strike to hit a post.