VK Vetra 0.v.2 Rovers
Sunday 22 July 2007. 17:00 BMT
It`s back! Football has returned, well for us Rovers fans anyway. Our first competitive game of what we hope will be a long and successful campaign was successfully dispatched with maximum results ascertained.
On a still afternoon in glorious Lithuania, famous for their eccentric and colourful Eurovision entrants and less for their football, Rovers laboured through a game that resembled a friendly.
Manager Mark Hughes went for a strong starting line up with Tugay partnering the a seemingly recovered Robbie Savage in midfield and Jason Roberts alongside Benni McCarthy.
The setting was hardly befitting of Champions League football but McCarthy nevertheless seemed happy to be once again wearing the blue and white of Rovers, albeit in a slightly different style to last season`s.
Rovers kicked off and but for a succession of early corners rarely threatened the Lithuanian`s goal. They in fact had the better of the openings early on, but their profligacy was as welcome as was the breeze sifting through the stadium.
Towering Chris Samba went close with a header but Rovers eventually opened the scoring following another poor set-piece.
Both Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Bentley were struggling to find their rhythm from dead-ball situations and when Gamst whipped a ball in from the right it seemed harmless enough.
However, a rejuvenated Andre Ooijer controlled the ball and fed it back to an unmarked Gamst near the by-line and just inside the penalty area. His deft chip across goal found an unmarked McCarthy who swept the ball home with a smart volley from ten yards out.
This strike enabled Rovers to relax a little and an exhibition of crisp one touch passing ensued lacking only in a final product.
Roberts was making a nuisance of himself and looked sharp; well everything but his finishing did.
Not long after Rovers goal Vetra engineered a fine opening for the elusive and sprightly Bozinovski but with Friedel the only thing in his way of an equalising goal he scuffed his shot wide.
The rest of the half was played out with little ceremony.
Hughes would have been content with the first half showing but obviously felt a need to add extra cover by replacing Tugay, who looked his age for once with last season`s most improved player Aaron Mokoena.
Rovers played out the early exchanges of the second half with a controlled professionalism of a side superior in ability. Alas this meant very few chances were created. Roberts kept trying but every time he pulled the trigger a block diverted his effort.
Matt Derbyshire and new boy Maceo Rigters were introduced on 65 minutes replacing a weary David Bentley and McCarthy. And it was young Matt, prince of the realm of Ewood, who settled matters on 80 minutes. He received the ball 25 yards out and in a central position and with an air of nonchalance that oozed confidence he drilled a crisp drive fizzing past the defence and into the back of the net via the hand of the home side`s 'keeper.
A late rally from Vetra followed but they were unable to muster anything of great concern for Friedel, Nelsen and Rovers!
A cracking workout for the boys who did look a little off the pace at times but job one is complete meaning Hughes might be able to field an alternative line-up in a week`s time.
The big guy at the back looked wonderfully accomplished on the ball. Fully aware of his surroundings and his timing was terrific.