Rovers 1v0 Man City
Sunday 2nd September 2007. 15:00
Rovers continued their unbeaten start to the new campaign with a 1-0 victory over Manchester City, who have now suffered back to back defeats following a bright start.
However, the game was severely overshadowed by referee Mike Dean, who all but destroyed the game as a spectacle due to his penchant for issuing cards. He reduced both teams to ten men in what was a fairly sporting game. Some say it takes true vision to turn a game on its head and I`m not sure what Mr. Dean saw but he conjured red cards from somewhere.
Mark Hughes, as anticipated, made changes to the line-up with all of the rested players returning to the starting line-up, meaning it was another opportunity for the strike partnership of Roque Santa Cruz and Benni McCarthy to develop.
It was Man City though, under the stewardship of Sven Goran Eriksson, who made the brighter start, with a rasping and spontaneous drive by Martin Petrov from all of 25 yards that forced Brad Friedel into a smart save being the highlight of their early excursions.
However, the game`s first turning point arrived on 13 minutes when Benni McCarthy prodded Rovers ahead.
David Bentley whipped across a corner that was met by the towering Chris Samba at the back post and he calmly and accurately headed back across goal for Sants Cruz to rise majestically. He was denied by Kasper Schmeichel but he could only present the ball to McCarthy who tapped home from inside the penalty area.
As clouds began to gather over Ewood, Rovers went about their work with great panache. It was apparent that Rovers were going to cause City problems with crosses and it was from another set piece that David Dunn ghosted in unmarked and diverted a head at goal. Alas, it was marginally too high and City survived.
Rovers endeavoured to turn the screw and their crisp passing on a greasy surface was a joy to behold at times. A deep searching cross from Stephen Warnock was expertly headed down into the ground and consequently towards the top corner by the impressive Santa Cruz. This effort was expertly turned away by Schmeichel.
From the resulting corner that was whipped in with venom by Gamst, Santa Cruz glanced a header across goal only to see it rebound off the post. The rebound sent the City defence into chaos and Richard Dunne comically headed against his own cross bar and, with a sigh of relief, City but the ball out again.
Just like the beating of the drums around Ewood, Rovers` attacking was relentless. The fans were roaring on the Rovers in dogged pursuit of a second goal that would kill the meek attempts of City to stay alive in this fixture.
The last moment of attacking quality was once again produced by Rovers. Another sharp passing move including Santa Cruz, Bentley and with the ball eventually arriving at Gamst, who forced a smart save from Schmeichel, Rovers were unlucky not to go in at half time with a greater advantage.
Eriksson had reshuffled just before half-time converting to a 4-4-2 formation that had stemmed the flow of Rovers attacks but he was looking for greater attacking impetus in the second period.
However, once again Rovers threatened. Smart link-up play between the front two released Santa Cruz who bamboozled Micah Richards who was loathe to put a foot in, but Cruz lost his footing slightly and Schmeichel once again came out on top in their tussle.
However, the game was turned by the eccentricity of Mr. Dean on 54 minutes. A sense of pathetic fallacy engulfed Ewood as Tugay was sensationally booked twice in minute for two nothing tackles, the second of which was quite bizarre considering he did nothing more than pinch Dietmar Hamann`s shirt.
A disjointed period ensued with both teams trying to figure out their best way to approach the game courtesy of Mr. Dean`s unwanted intervention.
However, just as things began to settle he dismissed Dunne for his second booking after he hauled Santa Cruz down.
From the resulting free-kick Rovers won a corner and Samba should have made it two when he connected with the cross unmarked.
Rovers continued to press with City offering little at the other end, generally resorting to free-kicks from distance that were poorly directed by their foreign legion.
As the game became stretched Brett Emerton was making his presence known with a number of surging runs, exploiting his new found freedom to attack following the re-shuffle that had seen Andre Ooijer replace McCarthy.
He was twice thwarted by the unassailable Schmeichel. The final chance fell to an out of sorts Gamst from the boot of Emerton. His through ball found the Norwegian but he tried to be a little too fancy and insipidly lobbed the ball into Schmeichel`s arms.
The final whistle was greeted by a cacophony of cheers from the home fans as fortress Ewood shook proudly with another victim of Rovers` attacking football leaving empty handed.
However, it is another win for Rovers and their first clean sheet of the league campaign.
There were a number of contenders for this accolade but its been a while since Brett won it. He was lively going forward and once again defended soundly.
Santa Cruz 8