Paul Ince's managerial debut in the English Premier League got off to a superb start today when Blackburn Rovers beat Everton at Goodison Park in a five-goal thriller. It was a dream introduction for Ince, whose side squandered a one-goal advantage before coming from behind in the second half to win 3-2 with a dramatic injury-time winner.
It was the visitors who got off to the snappier start, Morten Gamst Pedersen testing keeper Tim Howard's agility with a tidy 25-yard shot, with Roque Santa Cruz an ever-threatening presence in the six-yard box. David Dunn was next to give the Everton keeper something to think about with a close-range effort in the 16th minute.
And the highly-rated midfielder made a decisive impact four mintues later, when he got on to the end of Pedersen's pass to blast the ball into the top-left corner. Advantage Blackburn.
A depleted Everton, unbeaten in the last six league meetings between the two teams, were missing influential pairing Tim Cahill and Steven Pienaar, and their midfield looked to be struggling to stem the Rovers tide. Everton defender Phil Neville managed to restore some calm in his backline and at the other end of the field, Mikel Arteta curled a free-kick over Paul Robinson's bar on the 40-minute mark.
That was a prelude to the Spanish playmaker's goal in the closing seconds of the first half, when he slammed a sublime 25-yard free-kick past Robinson to the delight of Toffees manager David Moyes.
Blackburn started the second period as they had the first, piling into the home side's half as Everton were forced into errors, infringements and a block by Joseph Yobo on a goal-bound drive by Jason Roberts on 55 minutes. Only two league places separated these teams last season, and as the game moved into the 60th minute there was still not much to divide them.
With 63 minutes on the clock, however, Everton's Ayegbeni Yakubu rose above a sluggish defence to connect with an Arteta inswinger and nudge the hosts in front. But Blackburn refused to lie down, replying immediately with a Santa Cruz shot to make it 2-2.
Dunn was by far the brightest player in the last 20 minutes, his crosses and probing passes failing to find suitable takers. But there was to be drama in the dying seconds when a right-footed blast by Andre Ooijer gave Ince the perfect winning debut.