Allardyce's Rovers off to winning start

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> South Africa striker Benni McCarthy scored twice as Blackburn Rovers began life under new manager Sam Allardyce with a 3-0 win at home to Stoke City.

Updated: December 21, 2008 17:39 IST
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South Africa striker Benni McCarthy scored twice as Blackburn Rovers began life under new manager Sam Allardyce with a 3-0 win at home to Stoke City.

Saturday's victory was only Rovers's fourth in 18 English Premier League matches and came just three days after former Bolton and Newcastle boss Allardyce replaced the sacked Paul Ince.

However, despite a win which ended a run of six straight defeats, Rovers remained in the relegation zone.

At the other end of the table, Aston Villa climbed above champions Manchester United, playing Ecuador's Liga de Quito in Sunday's Club World Cup final in Tokyo, into third place after an own-goal from Australia defender Lucas Neill 12 minutes from time secured a 1-0 win away to West Ham.

Saturday's late kick-off at Upton Park was heading for a goalless draw until James Milner cross's deflected off Neill and looped over keeper Robert Green.

Victory moved Villa to 34 points, two more than United, although Sir Alex Ferguson's side do have two games in hand.

Earlier, Sunderland climbed out of the bottom three with a 4-1 win away to high-flyers Hull.

Elsewhere Fulham recorded their sixth home league win in nine games this term with a 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough, while Bolton beat Portsmouth 2-1.

Sunderland's success saw them complete back-to-back wins for the first time this season and took their tally under caretaker boss Ricky Sbragia, who took charge after Roy Keane's departure from the Stadium of Light, to eight goals in two games following last weekend's 4-0 thrashing of basement club West Brom.

Sunday sees leaders Liverpool go in search of their first victory at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium while Newcastle and Tottenham, both on the fringes of the relegation zone, meet at St James' Park.

Manchester City, now in the bottom three after Sunderland's victory, travel to West Brom. Second-placed Chelsea are away to Everton on Monday.

McCarthy put Rovers ahead at Ewood Park with a ninth-minute penalty after Ibrahima Sonko fouled Morten Gamst Pedersen before Jason Roberts added a second after Australia international's Brett Emerton cross was diverted into his path.

McCarthy, on his 100th appearance for Rovers, then made it 3-0 before the half-hour mark after being played in by fellow forward Roberts.

Portsmouth, who had conceded eight goals in their previous four league matches, were 2-0 down inside three minutes at the Reebok Stadium.

Former Portsmouth midfielder Matt Taylor put Bolton ahead in the first minute when he volleyed home before setting-up Ricardo Gardner.

England striker Peter Crouch pulled a goal back for Portsmouth with a 20th minute header. Steed Malbranque put visitors Sunderland ahead with a 25-yard shot in the 10th minute before Nick Barmby levelled nine minutes later.

However, Sunderland restored their lead in the 78th minute thanks to an own-goal from Kamil Zayatte. Hull's day then got worse when Sam Ricketts was sent-off for a second bookable offence.

Kenwyne Jones made it 3-1 six minutes from the finish and there was still time for Djibril Cisse to add a fourth.

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