Sheffield United: A perfect finish undone by Poundland defending as Blackburn Rovers cruise to victory

The finish Rhian Brewster produced to fire Sheffield United in front had £23.5m written all over it, as he scored his first league goal since leaving Liverpool.

Saturday, 6th November 2021, 6:07 pm

But the defending which presented Blackburn Rovers with three of their own? Well, you’d struggle to get someone to pay a quid for that at a car boot sale in Darwen. Confused, chaotic and ultimately catastrophic as Reda Khadra, Ben Brereton Diaz and Ian Poveda all pounced, the visitors appear unable to even grasp the basics. Let alone anything which even approaches the standards required to build a challenge for promotion.

When Brewster pounced at the beginning of a contest that ended with United looking bereft of ideas and shamefully even fight, the afternoon seemed to be full of promise. Their record signing had just opened his account at the 35th time of asking and they were facing opponents beaten 7-0 by Fulham three days earlier.

But if Rovers could have handpicked a team to play after suffering that kind of humiliation, it would be one just like United: A coveted scalp, at least for the time being, but lacking the quality necessary to back up its reputation.

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“The performance, it was poor,” Slavisa Jokanovic, the United manager said. “From the moment we scored we lacked intensity. We deserved nothing more than what we got.”

United have had no problems creating chances in recent weeks. Taking them, however, has proven difficult. So when Brewster converted the very first one his team fashioned, only two minutes into the contest, little wonder the usually phlegmatic Jokanovic punched the air in celebration.

Billy Sharp, drafted back into the starting eleven following a period on the bench, claimed the assist after drifting out towards the flank and then drilling the ball back towards the Rovers area. Brewster did the rest, tracing its flight path through the wet Lancashire air and then executing his volley perfectly.

After waiting so long to open his account in a league fixture for United, the 21-year-old could be forgiven for doing the full ‘Marco Tardelli’ before sliding on his knees across the turf.

Sheffield United's Morgan Gibbs-White looks dejected as Blackburn Rovers seize control: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

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Despite their new-found inventiveness, which has coincided with Morgan Gibbs-White’s arrival on loan, what United have discovered at one end of the pitch they have lost at the other. Defensively sound at the beginning of the season, August’s mauling at West Brom apart, Jokanovic’s side were toothless going forward. Now they’ve got bite but appear devoid of organisation at the back - living on their wits, as Chris Basham demonstrated when he produced a last ditch tackle to deny Khadra a shooting chance.

Unfortunately it was not a trick he could reprise when the German, who Rovers have borrowed from Brighton and Hove Albion, skipped through United’s rearguard during the closing stages of the first-half and unleashed a shot which deflected past Robin Olsen.

Rhian Brewster celebrates his first league goal for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

There was an air of inevitability about what was going to happen when Brereton Diaz netted too.

Likewise, as United’s confidence and determination visibly drained away, the sight of Poveda netting during the closing stages when a slip by Olsen compounded Jayden Bogle’s error during the build up.

“They scored three goals and they were easy goals,” Jokanovic said. “We can not allow something like that to happen.”

Blackburn Rovers: Kaminski, Nyambe, Davenport (Rothwell 78), Khadra (Dolan 67), Wharton, Edun, Buckley, Brereton Diaz, Lenihan, Travis, Poveda (Butterworth 90). Not used: Pears, Johnson, Clarkson, Carter.

Sheffield United: Olsen, Stevens, Bogle (Baldock 80), Egan, Basham, Norwood, Fleck (Ndiaye 64), Osborn, Gibbs-White, Brewster (Mousset 64), Sharp. Not used: Foderingham, McBurnie, Robinson, Hourihane.

Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands).

Attendance: 17,291