Blackburn force Man City into an FA Cup replay

TIM COLLINGS
Last updated 04:10 05/01/2014

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Premier League title favourites Manchester City were reduced to 10 men today as they survived a torrid examination of their class by lower league Blackburn Rovers in a feisty 1-1 draw in the FA Cup third round.

City, unexpectedly beaten by Wigan Athletic in last season's FA Cup final, went ahead with a 45th minute goal by Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo, but Championship side Blackburn levelled 10 minutes later through a similar close-range effort by Scott Dann.

Manuel Pellegrini's much-changed team had further chances to score but also rode their luck and needed to bring on Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure for Brazilian Fernandinho to retain control. Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata was dismissed in the 85th minute following two yellow card offences.

Blackburn pushed hard for a winner in the closing minutes, but City replaced Spanish winger David Silva with Argentine defender Pablo Zabaleta and hung on for a replay back at the Etihad Stadium.

"We knew we'd played quite well in the first half," said Blackburn's scorer Dann. "The goal knocked the stuffing out of us, but we knew if we carried on we would hopefully get something from game - and we did."

Blackburn manager Gary Bowyer, whose father Ian was an FA Cup winner with City in 1969, beamed with pride following his team's spirited display. "We had a chance and we did very well. I am very proud of my players for their efforts," he said.

His City counterpart Pellegrini praised the intensity of Blackburn's football.

"It was a difficult game for us," he said. "They played with a great intensity in front of their own fans. We wanted to win, but it is important that we did not lose this game."

The match reeked of the clubs' contrasting roles in English football history - Blackburn having won the FA Cup six times between 1884 and 1928 and City having won the trophy five times, including 2011 when they overcame Chelsea.

On a wet surface after days of stormy weather, conditions were difficult for defenders and both goalkeepers struggled, each appearing at fault for the goals, to the delight of a raucous crowd at Ewood Park.

Both came from corners, Edin Dzeko heading across goal for Negredo to volley in unchallenged for City's opener, as former England keeper Paul Robinson failed to intervene, and then his Romanian counterpart Costel Pantillimon flapping at Ben Marshall's cross to gift Dann a tap-in.

City started the second half rather complacently and Blackburn tore into them to level and threaten a famous victory.

Pellegrini, who had made seven changes to the City side that defeated Swansea on Wednesday, sensed the danger and brought on Toure after 64 minutes and Spanish winger Jesus Navas for the wasteful Negredo after 75.

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Boyata ignited some late drama when he was shown a second yellow card for a swipe of his boot at Blackburn substitute striker DJ Campbell.

Blackburn did all they could to find a winner but City, with Zabaleta marshalling their defence, held on.

- Reuters

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