Millers slip to defeat......
Rotherham United returned over the Pennines empty-handed as Blackburn Rovers ran out comfortable victors at Ewood Park.
Chilean international Ben Brereton Diaz was Rotherham’s tormentor-in-chief when he scored either side of the interval – with his first being from the spot – before Sammie Szmodics rubbed salt into Millers wounds with a third late on.
After maintaining the status quo in his managerial bow, boss Matt Taylor made two changes to his starting line-up for his first away game in charge.
Lee Peltier was recalled as part of the Rotherham defensive three, at the expense of club skipper Richard Wood. Former Hull striker Tom Eaves also made his first start spearheading the Millers attack, in his second stint with the club, as Conor Washington had to settle for a substitutes berth.
Ex-Millers loanee George Hirst lined up on the bench for Jan Dahl Tomasson’s side, who went into the clash without a draw to their name, with six wins and six losses from their 12 league games to date.
The Millers were led out in Lancashire by Rawmarsh-born Ben Wiles, who took the skipper’s armband, in the absence of Wood.
Taylor’s side were supported by a vocal travelling contingent from South Yorkshire, and the Millers settled into the Roses affair well with neither side threatening the goal in the early stages.
However, it was the Millers, who had the first sighter when Dan Barlaser planted a ball over the top and Chiedozie Ogbene got the better of his marker to race into the box before pulling a cross into the path of Wiles, who failed to make a telling connection, before Eaves had a shot blocked on the edge of the box.
With Rovers failing to clear the danger, Rotherham continued to probe and Ollie Rathbone fired a curling effort from distance which was arrowing into the bottom corner until Thomas Kaminski’s diving intervention diverted the ball away from goal.
Rathbone was in the thick of the early action and the energetic midfielder latched onto a tame Blackburn clearance to drag a long-range effort well wide of the target.
The game sprang to life when Viktor Johansson raced out of goal to deny Brereton Diaz before the Millers turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye, and Ogbene found himself running at the heart of the home defence, before playing a slide-rule pass into the path of Eaves, who fired an effort which smashed against the post, before Bramall looked to turn the rebound home, but a referee’s whistle for a handball came to Rovers’ rescue and released the pressure on the hosts.
The moment proved crucial when Blackburn were presented with the chance to break the deadlock with their first real attack of note, just past the twenty minute mark.
The home side broke with purpose through the middle of the pitch and a timely pass caught Grant Hall slightly out of position, and Liverpool loanee Tyler Morton found himself on the wrong side of the Millers centre-half, who hauled him to the ground in the box. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, before brandishing a yellow-card to Hall.
Seconds later, Brereton Diaz punished him to the full for his indiscretion when he despatched the resultant penalty, by sending Johansson the wrong way, and finding the opposite corner of the visitors goal.
The Millers responded positively to the setback and Wiles had Kaminski flying across his goal with a curling effort from distance but Blackburn came close to a second goal when firstly Brereton Diaz had a shot deflected behind before Scott Wharton rose highest to meet Morton’s corner from the following corner, but a retreating Rotherham defender headed the ball away from goal.
Just past the half-hour mark, Barlaser threaded a lovely weighted pass which split open the Blackburn defence, and Wiles had a glimpse of goal but Kaminski darted from his line to smother the danger at the feet of the Rotherham skipper.
It was the same Millers combination, who threatened again, when Barlaser’s pass presented Wiles with the opportunity to drill a low centre which caused home indecision until Wharton bundled the ball behind his own goal.
The Millers, arguably, had a big let off at the other end when Sam Gallagher looked to get a yard on Peltier, who appeared to bring him down in the box near the touchline, but the referee having given one penalty, decided not to award another.
Taylor’s side came close to levelling matters on two occasions just shy of the break.
Following a threaded pass, Ogbene made light work of Daniel Ayala’s weak challenge to race into the box, but from a tight angle, Kaminski was able to narrow his options, and block his goalbound shot at close quarters.
Barlaser floated the resultant corner into the box and Wes Harding emerged from the masse of bodies to head over from close range.
Half-time: Blackburn Rovers 1 Rotherham United 0
The Millers were now attacking their travelling fans but it was Blackburn, who started the second 45 on the front foot when Lewis Travis slipped in Ryan Hedges, who looked to find Szmodics for a tap in, but Johansson got the slightest of touches to take the ball off his toe.
The Millers had a half-chance when Barlaser’s perfect pass picked out Rathbone, who ran hard at the Rovers defence, before screwing a shot wide of the target.
The visitors had a couple of scares when a run and cross from Hedges found Szmodics, who bizarrely managed to head wide despite having the goal at his mercy before Brereton Diaz fired into the grateful hands of Johansson, just minutes later.
However, Rotherham failed to heed the warning, when they turned over possession sloppily, and Blackburn made them pay by doubling their advantage.
Szmodics ran into the channel before delivering a lovely centre and Brereton Diaz had got on the wrong side of Norton-Cuffy, who was caught napping momentarily, and the home striker made no mistake to prod home from close range.
The highly-coveted Brereton Diaz was sniffing that a hat-trick may be within his grasp and Wharton’s run and through ball gave him another glimpse of goal, but this time, he blasted into the home stand behind the goal.
However, Blackburn soon sealed the deal with a third goal with a quarter an hour to go when sub Tyrhys Dolan, who had just replaced Brereton Diaz, played a perfectly-weighted ball which saw Szmodics run away from a flat-footed Rotherham defence, and the former Peterborough man kept his nerve to slide the ball under the advancing Johansson, to find the heart of the visitors goal.
Full-time: Blackburn Rovers 3 Rotherham United 0
Blackburn Rovers 3
Rotherham United 0
Teams: Blackburn- Kaminski, Pickering (Mola 80), Ayala, Hyam, Morton (A Wharton 87), Szmodics (Dack 87), Gallagher (Hirst 80), S Wharton, Hedges, Brereton Diaz (Dolan 73), Travis. Subs: Pears, Brittain.
Rotherham- Johansson, Harding, Bramall, Barlaser, Wiles, Eaves (Washington 70), Norton-Cuffy (Humphreys 70), Ogbene, Rathbone (Lindsay 81), Hall, Peltier (Ferguson 76). Unused- Vickers, McCart, Kelly.
Referee- O Langford
Attendance- 12233 (919)