Benni McCarthy made his point to Sam Allardyce as the South African’s late goal put Blackburn Rovers on course for a crucial 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur yesterday.
McCarthy has been reduced to a bit-part role recently after Allardyce accused the striker of being over-weight, but the former Porto star was back in Blackburn’s starting line-up at Ewood Park and showed his manager what he can bring to the team.
Rovers fell behind to Robbie Keane’s controversial penalty in the first half, but referee Peter Walton gave Blackburn a helping hand when he harshly sent off Wilson Palacios for two bookings in quick succession with 10 minutes to play.
Tottenham couldn’t hold on as McCarthy pounced from close-range two minutes later and then Andre Ooijer punished a mistake by Brazilian goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes to score the winner in the 89th minute.
It was Tottenham who made the more positive start and Aaron Lennon tried to release Keane only for goalkeeper Paul Robinson to make an interception.
Blackburn responded with an El-Hadji Diouf header from a Morten Gamst Pedersen cross, but the Senegal star failed to hit the target.
Robinson then did well to parry a shot from Darren Bent to safety in the 18th minute after a fine through ball from Palacios.
Blackburn were forced to make a change in the 26th minute when Pedersen took a knock and he was replaced by David Dunn.
Spurs were steadily pushing Rovers deeper into their own half and took the lead in controversial circumstances after half an hour.
Lennon’s cross from the right struck French defender Gael Givet on the arm and referee Walton awarded a penalty.
Keane ignored Ryan Nelsen’s complaints that the ball wasn’t on the spot as he prepared to take the penalty and calmly slotted past Robinson.
With Rovers struggling to make any headway, Allardyce made a surprise change at halftime. He took off striker Jason Roberts, pushed central defender Christopher Samba into attack and brought on Ooijer to cover at the back.
It was a bold move from Allardyce and Samba quickly made a nuisance of himself, winning a header in the penalty area that fell to Diouf, who sent his effort over the bar.
Lashing the ball long to Samba gave Blackburn an outlet they lacked in the first half, but it still took Palacios’ dismissal to give then a lifeline.
The former Wigan midfielder had already been booked for a foul on David Dunn a minute earlier when he challenged the same player. Dunn made the most of minimal contact and Walton decided the tackle was worthy of a second booking.
Blackburn threw players forward in search of an equalizer and got it in the 82nd minute when McCarthy turned in Samba’s flick for his 11th goal of the season.
That set the stage for a grandstand finish. In the 89th minute Stephen Warnock sent over a corner and, when Bent missed his header at the near-post, Gomes could only help the ball onto Ooijer, who tapped in to complete the great escape.