Blackburn 1-2 Stoke

By Sam SheringhamBBC Sport
Peter Crouch puts Stoke 1-0 up at Blackburn
Crouch has not played for England since November 2010

Peter Crouch scored two fine goals as Stoke brought Blackburn's mini-revival to an end with victory at Ewood Park.

Chris Samba hit the bar and had a goal disallowed for the hosts before Dean Whitehead's chipped pass set up Crouch to fire home the opening goal.

Then, with half-time imminent, Matthew Etherington sprinted down the left and crossed for Crouch to blast the second.

David Goodwillie scrambled in to give Blackburn hope but Jonathan Woodgate blocked Yakubu's shot on the line.

The Nigerian striker, so often Blackburn's shining light with 13 goals this season, was well inside the six-yard box when the ball fell at his feet, but his instinctive shot struck Woodgate's leg and flew to safety.

Steve Kean rues 'missed opportunity'

The defeat - Blackburn's eighth in 10 home games this season - will be a hammer blow to boss Steve Kean, who appeared to be turning the club's fortunes around after ending 2011 with a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield and a stunning 3-2 away victory over champions Manchester United.

Indeed, Kean and his players were given a rare warm reception by home fans, whose antagonism towards the Scottish manager reached fever pitch in the recent 2-1 home defeat by fellow strugglers Bolton.

The goodwill seemed to rub off on Blackburn's players as they made a confident start and came close to taking an early lead.

First, Samba's header from a corner rattled against the bar, and soon afterwards the same player popped up at the far post to nod home, only for the goal to be controversially ruled out for a tug by Yakubu on goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.

The contact between the pair appeared minimal and several Blackburn players surrounded referee Lee Mason to make their grievances known.

David Dunn, restored to the Blackburn line-up following a hamstring injury, was characteristically positive, exchanging passes with Yakubu before stinging the palms of Sorensen from the edge of the box.

Stoke soon settled and began to pepper the Blackburn defence with aerial balls from all angles.

And the strategy paid dividends when Whitehead's ball found Crouch, who controlled it on his chest and swivelled to fire home his 100th goal in league football.

Central defender Samba remained Blackburn's most promising attacking source, seeing a low shot tipped around the post before setting up Yakubu for a shot which flew past an upright.

Pulis praises Kean after Stoke win

Blackburn were made to pay for their profligacy as Stoke went 2-0 ahead from a stunning counter-attack.

Etherington raced 60 yards down the left flank and picked out Crouch in the middle, the England striker cushioning the ball on his thigh before smashing a left-footed strike into the roof of the net.

Crouch almost grabbed himself a hat-trick early in the second half when a Woodgate centre from the right found him at the far post, but his volley cleared the bar by a distance.

Stoke remained the most accomplished side but just when they were starting to cruise, Blackburn brought the contest back to life with a goal against the run of play.

Grant Hanley won a header from a corner and, with Stoke struggling to clear the ball, substitute Goodwillie pounced to prod home.

Crouch 'proud' to reach 100 league goals

Sensing their chance, Blackburn surged forward and came within a whisker of an equaliser with 12 minutes remaining.

A long throw was flicked on by Samba to Yakubu, whose shot from point-blank range was blocked by Woodgate on the line.

That was to prove Rovers' last real opportunity of any substance as they succumbed to a defeat that leaves them 19th in the table, three points adrift of safety.

Stoke remain upwardly mobile after a fifth win in eight league games moved them a point behind seventh-placed Newcastle in the table.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis: "It was a fantastic game - end to end stuff. In the first half we played really well and could have come in with a couple more goals.

"Their set pieces were very good and caused us all sorts of problems. After that they loaded everything in there and we had to defend for our lives.

"Peter [Crouch] has not been a regular recently but he has been such a good player for us. He took his goals really well. Not just on the pitch but off the pitch, he is a great lad."

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