MILAN BAROS promised his fresh start at Villa would be just the career boost he needed - and the Czech made the dream debut he'd prayed for.
From the moment the Anfield reject latched on to Kevin Phillips' ninth-minute through-ball to sweep home his early strike, this was Baros at his best.
Gone was the misfiring misfit who failed to light up Liverpool - and in his place was the flamboyant striker with a touch of class.
Baros insists his pounds 6.5m move to Villa Park will launch his build-up to next summer's World Cup.
And his partnership with Phillips proved an instant hit that augurs well for David O'Leary's men.
Rovers, missing the injured Craig Bellamy and banned Paul Dickov, were slow to stretch Villa with their cautious 4-5-1 formation.
With loan striker Shefki Kuqi looking lost upfront and Robbie Savage failing to inspire the visitors in midfield until the second half, Rovers left it late to fight back.
When it came, Villa had to dig deep to resist the visitors' robust revival.
In the dying minutes the Villa Park faithful held their breath as Rovers threw everything forward, including keeper Brad Friedel.
A crucial double save from Thomas Sorensen proved decisive when the keeper kept out a long-range strike from sub Jemal Johnson and the follow-up from Kuqi.
It was too little too late for Rovers as Villa held on for their first win of the season.
But take nothing away from the hosts and their new talisman Baros, who looked a threat every time he touched the ball.
Oozing with confidence after his early goal, Baros twice went close again before the break.
Denied by Friedel on 15 minutes, he headed wide a delicious cross by Philips at the end of the first 45.
In a half that began with Dominic Matteo heading Aaron Hughes' looping header over Friedel off the line, it was all Villa.
Gavin McCann, teed up by Gareth Barry, should have made it 2-0 when he drilled wide.
Villa's wasteful finishing allowed Rovers to re-group after the break and hit back with a spell of pressure that could have proved costly.
After Rovers escaped by the width of the goalpost when Liam Ridgewell headed Barry's free kick on to the upright, Kuqi blew a golden chance to equalise.
With Matt Jansen and Vratislav Gresko replacing Flitcroft and Matteo, Rovers tried to rally.
O'Leary countered by sending on his other Czech star, Patrik Berger, who curled a 73rd-minute free kick over the bar from 25 yards.
But it was a much-improved second-half defensive display by Rovers, who held firm until an 83rd-minute break should have killed them off.
Moments after Sorensen's crucial double save, Baros raced clear and unselfishly squared the ball to Phillips, who slammed his well- struck shot against the upright.
Blackburn escaped again in the dying seconds of the game when Baros broke free once more and slipped the ball past Friedel, who appeared to take out the striker. But referee Mark Clattenburg refused to give the penalty.MAN OF THE MATCH
Razor-sharp Czech looks like a striker reborn after this impressive debut. He made the perfect start with a clinical winner.RATINGS
WEST BROM: Kirkland 6, Watson 5 (Albrechtsen 6), Gaardsoe 5, Clement 5, Robinson 6, Gera 6, Wallwork 7, Carter 7 (Earnshaw 5), Greening 6, Campbell 5 (Ellington 5), HORSFIELD 8.
BIRMINGHAM: Taylor 6, Melchiot 6, Cunningham 6, Upson 6, Clapham 6, Pennant 6, Butt 6, Jarosik 7, Johnson (Clemence 5), Heskey 7 (Pandiani 5), Forssell 6 (Izzet 5).
MANAGERS: Robson 6; Bruce 7
REFEREE: G Poll 7RATINGS
ASTON VILLA: Sorensen 7, Hughes 6, Mellberg 6, Ridgewell 7, Samuel 6, Barry 7, McCann 6, Davis 6, Whittingham 7 (Berger 6), Phillips 7, BAROS 8.
BLACKBURN: Friedel 7, Reid 6, Todd 6, Nelsen 6, Matteo 6 (Gresko 5), Emerton 6 (Johnson 6), Savage 6, Tugay 6, Flitcroft 6 (Jansen 6), Pedersen 7, Kuqi 6.
MANAGERS: O'Leary 7; Hughes 6
REFEREE: M Clattenburg 6Blackburn had the worst disciplinary record in the Premiership last year with five sendings-off and 75 bookings. They were fined pounds 10,000.
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