Sunday, October 31, 2004

Blackburn Battling Qualities Shine Against Liverpool

Blackburn Rovers held Liverpool to a 2 - 2 draw at Ewood Park in front of a crowd of 26,314 on Saturday night, which is sure to delight Rovers fans after conceding ten goals in the previous three English Premier League games.

Rovers manager Mark Hughes gave forward Jay Bothroyd his first start of the season ahead of Youri Djorkaeff. Nils-Eric Johansson was given a rare start at centre-back to combine with veteran Craig Short thanks to Dominic Matteo and Lorenzo Amoruso injuries. Youngster James McEveley also played his first Premiership match for 18 months, replacing veteran Michael Gray on the left of defence, while Tugay came back from suspension to replace Garry Flitcroft.

It looked to be another miserable day for the home fans when Liverpool's John Arne Riise gave the away side the lead thanks to a magnificent left foot strike and acres of space.

To be fair, the Blackburn defence looked shaky all night, with goalkeeper Brad Friedel having to make several excellent saves. However, the attackers started to fire up after conceding a goal. It was only a matter of time before they scored a goal, and they did so thanks to an excellent counter-attack.

A Paul Dickov through-ball found Australia international Brett Emerton with acres of space and without a defender in sight. He then stylishly dribbled down the park and calmly put a cross in the box through to an unmarked Bothroyd, who easily slotted the ball into the back of the net.

The Lancashire outfit continued their battling display for the rest of the half. Brett Emerton was the stand-out, who was running rings around the Liverpool defenders from the left of midfield. His work paid off just before half-time, when the ball found his way to him in a penalty box scramble. He delightfully put a low shot past highly-rated goalkeeper Chris Kirkland to make the score 2 - 1.

Liverpool looked to be the slightly better side in the second half, despite losing striker and expensive new signing Djibril Cisse with a broken leg after a tussle with McEveley. The Frenchman may well not play again this season.

The Merseysiders' good work paid off after only nine minutes into the second half. A poorly directed pass by James McEveley found its way to Liverpool and in an instant Milan Baros broke away from the Blackburn defence line to score. Craig Short was simply to slow to keep the Czech Republic striker at bay and make a lunge at the ball.

To Rovers' credit they continued to fight on. Substitute Jonathon Stead made an excellent left-footed strike that forced opposition goalkeeper Kirkland to make an equally-excellent save.

Moments later a Barry Ferguson free kick resulted in a scramble in the box, with Blackburn looking likely to score. Striker Dickov found some space in front of goal and took a shot, only to be denied by a brave Chris Kirkland.

The last few minutes of the match were nerve-wracking for the home fans, who felt that their weak-minded team would lose the game to a 90th minute goal. To Blackburn's credit, they were able to fend off successive Liverpool attacks with a fighting spirit to keep the score at 2 - 2.

The resulting point to each club was welcoming for Blackburn Rovers, who came off the bottom of the league table to 19th place. They now have seven points from eleven English Premiership games. Liverpool is on 17 points after ten league games.

Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Short, Johansson, McEveley, Emerton, Tugay, Ferguson, Reid, Bothroyd (Stead, 65 minutes), Dickov. Substitutes Not Used: Enckelman, Flitcroft, Djorkaeff, Todd.

Liverpool: Kirkland, Finnan (Kewell, 55 minutes), Hyypia, Riise, Cisse (Luis Garcia, 38 minutes), Alonso, Hamann (Diao, 80 minutes), Josemi, Traore, Baros, Carragher. Substitutes Not Used: Dudek, Warnock.

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