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[Archived] News Article -> 2010/11 Match Report: Rovers 1 Manchester United 1

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Blackburn Rovers (1) 1 – 1 (0) Manchester United
Emerton 20 Rooney (pen) 73
Referee: Phil Dowd Attendance: 29,867

[caption id=attachment_2203" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="Pre-Match Huddle (Photo from cn174)]Rovers pre-match huddle[/caption]

Rarely, in its long and illustrious history, can Ewood Park have witnessed the spectacle that was laid before spectators during the final 15 minutes of this vital encounter. With the scores level, both sides seemed to opt to keep what they had and engaged in an exercise of keep-ball which might have been more fitting for the training ground rather than a Premier League stadium. In fairness, Sir Alex Ferguson's men had the point they needed to claim a record-breaking 19th championship, while the Rovers seemed more than happy to settle for a point against the champions elect. Sadly, subsequent news of results from Bloomfield Road and the Stadium of Light quickly took the gloss off a hard-won point and the Rovers now travel to Molineux in the knowledge that their Premier League life is still in the balance.

On a chilly afternoon at Ewood Park both sides made changes for this vital game. Michel Salgado and Phil Jones were restored to the Rovers' defence, which, in turn, enabled Brett Emerton and Martin Olsson to occupy the positions on the wings. With Mame Biram Diouf being ineligible and Morten Gamst Pedersen dropping down to the bench, Steve Kean opted for the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation. Sir Alex Ferguson made three changes to his line-up with the introduction of Tomasz Kuszczak, Nani and Jonny Evans to his team.

It was the visitors who started the more brightly of the two teams with the Rovers sitting back and allowing United to dominate the opening stages of the match. The Rovers received an early warning when Wayne Rooney's cross caught out Chris Samba and Nani crashed a header against the bar after four minutes. It was a poor piece of defending by Samba, who was badly out of position, and reflected the nervous start that the Rovers had made against a United team who seemed determined to clinch the title as quickly as possible.

The opening period found the Rovers somewhat hesitant in possession as they struggled to gain a foothold in the match. United's intricate passing and movement threatened to overrun the Rovers for a time. Slowly, the tide began to turn as the Rovers started to enjoy a greater share of possession. Junior Hoilett, drifting between midfield and attack, started to cause problems, while Olsson began to find space on the left flank. On the opposite wing, Salgado and Emerton launched one or two promising moves that suggested the United defence could be caught out.

The first real chance for the Rovers came on ten minutes when a cross from Hoilett found Samba in the area. Unfortunately, the big central defender was unable to adjust his body shape to get over the ball and he blazed his effort over the bar.

[caption id=attachment_2206" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Rovers celebrate Emerton's goal (Photo from cn174)]Rovers celebrate the goal[/caption]

As the Rovers continued to press forward, it was clear that Kuszczak looked increasingly nervous in the United goal. On twenty minutes the Rovers took the lead from a splendid piece of football. Salgado won a header in defence and set Jermaine Jones away down the right. The American international played a delightful through ball to Emerton, who had found some clear space to run into behind the United defence. He floated the ball towards the far post only to see it touched away by Kuszczak without any great conviction. The ball fell to Olsson on the byline and he quickly exchanged passes with Hoilett before picking out Emerton with a perfect cross. The Australian international wasted no time in sweeping the ball into the net with his left foot.

The goal not only lifted the crowd but the Rovers players grew in confidence and began to enjoy a larger share of the play. Although the visitors continued to threaten, the Rovers looked more assured in defence and, indeed, might well have extended the lead on 37 minutes. Once again it was Salgado who was the architect of the move when his glorious cross from the right found Olsson running into the left-hand side of the area. The young Swede met the ball on the full but, unfortunately, his first-time effort flew wide.

The second half began with United on the offensive and the Rovers looking to hit the visitors on the break. In an attempt to inject more creativity into the visiting attack, Paul Scholes was introduced at the expense of Fabio. The veteran midfielder was quickly into the action giving away a couple of free-kicks as he tried to stamp his authority on proceedings in the middle of the pitch.

Within minutes of Scholes entering the fray, the Rovers might well have doubled their lead when Emerton's right-wing cross found the head of Olsson after 65 minutes. The Rovers' left-winger out-jumped his marker, but his header thumped against the post with Kuszczak well beaten. Unfortunately, the Rovers were to pay dearly for this missed opportunity just a few minutes later.

Sadly, on the day that he was voted Player of the Season by the Ewood faithful, it was a rash piece of goalkeeping on Paul Robinson's part that enabled United to get back into the match. An exquisite pass by the evergreen Ryan Giggs found Javier Hernandez in acres of space between Phil Jones and Gael Givet. However, his first touch was not the best and the ball seemed to have rolled too far in front of him. It was sufficient to persuade Robinson to make a desperate dash from his goal in an attempt to reach the ball before the young Mexican. Sadly, Hernandez proved too quick for the former England goalkeeper and although his touch seemed to send the ball out of play, Robinson collided with him and the striker collapsed over the outstretched arms of the keeper.

Chaos ensued as Phil Dowd opted to consult his linesman before making a decision. Both sides surrounded the officials before Dowd pointed to the spot with 73 minutes showing on the clock. Rooney stepped up to take the penalty and calmly sent Robinson the wrong way as the ball flew into the back of the net.

[caption id=attachment_2205" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="Emerton defending (Photo from cn174)]Emerton Guarding Midfield[/caption]

The final fifteen minutes proved somewhat surreal as both sides seemed happy to pass the ball from side to side without making any serious attempts to get forward to win the game. The United players seemed content to pass the ball amongst themselves, deep in their own half, while the Rovers were happy enough to retreat to the halfway line and watch them do it. At one point it became so embarrassing that Phil Dowd looked over at Sir Alex Ferguson and seemed to query what was going on. However, whenever the Rovers got the ball they also engaged in a similar bout of passing with United happy to stand off and watch. While United had the point they needed, Steve Kean later admitted that the Rovers were caught on the horns of dilemma. Did they push for the win and risk losing by being hit on the break or settle for a point. In the end caution prevailed and the Rovers settled for a point that most would have gladly accepted before the match.

At the final whistle the United players and their supporters celebrated the historic 19th championship, while the Rovers seemed content with a point that finally saw them reach the magical forty-point mark. Unfortunately, results elsewhere dampened the celebrations of the home fans as the realisation dawned that Premier League survival was still not assured. The players came onto the pitch to bid a muted farewell to the fans, while United continued their celebrations at the Darwen End. As the United players finally left the pitch, the Ewood faithful gave them polite applause to acknowledge their achievement and in the hope that Manchester United would be returning to Ewood Park next season in a Premier League fixture.


Blackburn Rovers

Paul Robinson; Michel Salgado, Chris Samba (Keith Andrews 77), Gael Givet, Martin Olsson; Steven Nzonzi, Jermaine Jones (David Dunn 73); Brett Emerton, David "Junior" Hoilett (Morten Gamst Pedersen 58), Martin Olsson; Jason Roberts
Subs not used: Mark Bunn (gk), Benjani., Nikola Kalinic, Roque Santa Cruz
Manager: Steve Kean

Manchester United

Tomasz Kuszczak; Fabio da Silva (Paul Scholes 62), Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans; Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Nani (Dimitar Berbatov 80); Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez
Subs not used: Ben Amos (gk), Patrice Evra, Chris Smalling, Anderson, Michael Owen
Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson


Blackburn Rovers – Jermaine Jones, Michel Salgado, Steven Nzonzi

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