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Rovers 2 Saltzburg 0 (4-2 Aggregate)


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Tonights 2-0 win against Saltzburg, has placed Rovers in the group stage of the UEFA Cup and guaranteed them a few more European nights at Ewood this season.

From the half hour mark when Benni McCarthy beat goalkeeper Timo Ochs at the near post after some tricky turns to beat the defender there was no doubt that this was to be a historic night at Ewood.

However the icing was put on the cake when David Bentley brought down Nonda's header on his chest before lobbing the keeper with a long range volley into the far corner of the net.

You can use all the adjectives and football cliches you like, what was certain tonight, was that the supporters that turned up at Ewood Park were given 90 minutes of commitment and entertainment by a team in the mould of their manager.

Whether Mark Hughes has found a winning combination has yet to be proved, but he has gelled together a team prepared to work for each other; which is being appreciated by vocal support from the fans.

Whilst there was some apprehension during the first half, when Bentley's sublime volley hit the back of the Blackburn End net, it blew the roof off Ewood.

Mark Hughes quite rightly summed up after the game. "This place Rocked tonight".

If this is what they call the Magic of European Nights, then give me more.

This was football at it's best, electric, vibrant and full of attacking flair. Tugay not only created space he towed it around as he sprayed cross field passes all night, to the wing backs striking forward at every opportunity. Lucas Neil ending up in the centre forward position on more than one occasion during the night. And as for Emerton, he's causing more problems to defenders now than he did for 4 years as a winger. On his displays so far this season, he is the outstanding candidate for player of the season. A master stroke by Hughes that has converted Emerton from fans scapegoat to cult hero.

The acquisition of McCarthy is paying dividends to a point that Bellamy is quickly becoming a distant memory and Nonda is quickly becoming a cult hero, who I suspect will surpass the previous cult hero Kuqi, in the goal scoring department.

In his post match interview Mark Hughes stated:

"We dominated the game and we are in the group stages now.

"In the second half my only fear was that we were playing so well and were so comfortable that we might over indulge and get caught out.

"But in fairness to the guys, they were excellent and put in a really professional performance."

Rovers: Friedel, Emerton, Ooijer, Khizanishvili, Neill, Bentley, Savage (Mokoena 61), Tugay (Gallagher 83), Pedersen, Nonda, McCarthy (Jeffers 83).

Subs Not Used: Brown, McEveley, Peter, Gray.

Booked: Bentley, McCarthy, Emerton.

Goals: McCarthy 32, Bentley 56.

SV Red Bull Salzburg: Ochs, Bodnar, Vargas, Linke, Dudic, Tiffert (Jezek 59), Kovac (Aufhauser 69), Carboni, Vonlanthen, Janko, Zickler (Janocko 65).

Subs Not Used: Ozcan, Lokvenc, Meyer, Winklhofer.

Booked: Zickler, Kovac, Carboni. Agg (4-2)

Att: 18,888

Ref: Joao Francisco Lopes Ferreira (Portugal).

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