Match Report

Manchester City 3-1 Blackburn Rovers

City: Given, Richards, Onuoha, Dunne, Bridge, De Jong, Kompany, Elano (Petrov, 78), Ireland, Robinho, Caicedo (Bojinov, 61).

 Unused subs: Hart, Garrido, Fernandes, Berti, Evans.

 Blackburn: Robinson, Ooijer, Nelsen, Givet, Warnock, Diouf, Grella, Tugay (Doran, 63), Pedersen, Samba (Andrews, 63), McCarthy (Villanueva, 46).

 Unused subs: Bunn, Khizanishvili, Mokoena, Olsson.

Goals: 1-0 Caicedo (26), 2-0 Robinho (33), 3-0 Elano (pen, 45+1), 3-1 Andrews (65).


City: Caicedo, De Jong.

Blackburn: Pedersen, Ooijer, Nelsen.

Referee: Mike Dean.


OH BOY! Caicedo, Robinho, Elano - the South American Blues boys were oh-so-accurate at a sunny City of Manchester Stadium to keep up the pressure in the race for the last Europa League spot.

  Blackburn, fighting for their lives at the wrong end of the table, did snatch one back after Shay Given saved a penalty, but they had no answer to irrepressible City's determined bid to finish oh-oh-seventh and land that licence to thrill in Europe.

  Samba was beaten in the air by Richard Dunne in the first minute, but it was clear that their aerial duel was going to be a feature of a game that City needed to win and Blackburn probably couldn't afford to lose.

 The afternoon was overcast but Elano came up with a little bit of early magic, a "Johan Cruyff" flicked pass with his wrong foot that found Felipe Caicedo offside but raised a huge cheer from an appreciative crowd.
 Rovers suffered a scare after just six minutes when McCarthy had to ne helped to the touchline after Wayne Bridge accidentaly stood on his foot. The striker resumed but manager Allardyce looked a little concerned.

 The Rovers fans were in good voice - some even had blow-up bananas! - but they had little to cheer early on, apart from Vince Grella launching a curling shot from outside the box that gave Shay Given no problems.

 They cheered Tugay lustily when the Turkish veteran, who will leave Rovers this summer, blocked Robinho's path to goal after a surge down the left in partnership with full-back Bridge.

Tugay earned a chorus of boos after 20 minutes for a sliding tackle that upended Stevie Ireland and left the midfielder regaining his breath on al fours, then a minute later Diouf flattened him again. Referee Mike Dean was unmoved, Allardyce poker-faced, and Ireland clambered up to carry on.

 After one of Morten Gamst Pedersen's long throws a la Rory Delap, Tugay snapped a cross shot well wide of Given's far post, but Rovers were giving as good as they got despite their relegation troubles.

 But City eventually took the lead after 26 minutes from an Elano corner, although the execution was something of a farce as Vincent Kompany, dep in the area, was allowed to roll the ball for Nedum Onuoha to have a weak shot blocked before Caicedo rolled in his fourth League goal of the campaign from close range.
 Caicedo picked up a yellow card for ripping off his shirt, but he won't have been too concerned, especially as the Blues increased their lead after 33 minutes through record signing Robinho.

 The boy from Brazil had not been particularly prominent so far, but he was in the right place when quick-thinking Kompany, having seen his header blocked, switched the ball across when it came back to him and Robi planted his 15th goal of the season beyond Paul Robinson.

Rovers rallied to hit back and McCarthy rose well to a 42nd-minute cross from El Hadj Diouf only to see his header clip the top of the goal frame on its way over with Given scrambling.

 But the visitors were in deep trouble during time added on as Gael Givet unluckily handled in the area while tackling Ireland, three Rovers players were booked for protesting against the penalty - it appeared to be Pedersen, Andre Ooijer and skipper Ryan Nelsen - and the ever-reliable Elano sent Robinson the wrong way from the spot for his eighth goal of the season and City's third of the day.

 Little wonder Hughes' men were given a standing ovation as they left the pitch ...

 Half time: City 3 Rovers 0 

 The sun came out for the second half, and as Caicedo and Robinho linked up South Amercian style for the Brazilian to curl one wide, the 43,967 crowd broke out into "It's just like watching Brazil".

  Big Samba wasn't able to do much to improve Big Sam's afternoon however, and when he got a rare opening in the penalty area Nigel de Jong flung himself in for a block tackle. Minutes later the Dutchman went into Mr Dean's book for upending Stephen Warnock.

  Carlos Villanueva, Rovers' own South American talent, had come on at the restart for McCarthy and he launched a free kick that flicked off Richards in the wall and just looped over Given's crossbar.

  Valeri Bojinov, fresh from a two-goal reserve win over Everton, came off the City bench to a warm reception as a replacement for Caicedo. Tugay's exit was less rapturously received for his tackles on Ireland.

  Rovers, with little to lose and little time to lose, pushed forward and pulled a goal back from the spot in the 66th minute when Nedum Onuoha brought down Pedersen in the box.

  Even then, Given saved Diouf's penalty but was unable to hold the ball. Diouf hurled himself forward for a diving header that was blocked but sub Keith Andrews was on hand to drive home the losse ball.

Martin Petrov on, Elano off after 78 minutes. That's a guaranteed ovation for both players from Blues fans, and the Brazilian milked the moment by shaking the ref's hand before being greeted by manager Hughes.

  Rovers refused to give up, but they could not prevent City recording a fourth successive victory - and their  first League "hat-trick" since October 2007 - as they keep up the chase for that seventh-place finish.

  And that's without Shaun Wright-Phillips ...

Peter Ferguson

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