Thursday 22 February 2018

Hart's howler gifts Rovers crucial point

Manchester City 1
Blackburn Rvs 1

Ben Findon

With one, final Herculean effort, Blackburn mainstay Christopher Samba flung himself at the ball, somehow deflecting Jo's close-range shot deep in added time at Eastlands away to safety.

It banked a hard-earned point for Sam Allardyce's determined side, who have a fraction of City's near limitless resources but can still compete on an even playing field when it comes to heart for the battle.

"You know what is happening at Manchester City, with them spending big money and massive wages, but football is more than that. You have to believe that and we have shown it today," Samba said.

"Of course it is normal that to attract the best players they have to pay the big wages but I think the team spirit is something you can't buy."

It was all far from City's millionaires' check-in desk when Samba (26) arrived as an unheralded £450,000 bargain basement acquisition from Hertha Berlin in 2007.

The big Congolese has since earned the trust of Allardyce, who appointed him team captain at the start of the season, and this display to thwart Carlos Tevez and City's glittering array of English attacking talent was his finest moment yet.

Samba's man-of-the-match performance was all the more outstanding for marshalling Blackburn's back-line restructuring when Ryan Nelsen and Michel Salgado departed injured with fully half the game still to go.

"It has been hard work by the manager to bring the players together and now we've been together for a few of years, we showed how important desire and team spirit really is," he said.

Never mind team spirit, maybe some basic communication would have been a start for City, who gifted Blackburn the lead. Goalkeeper Joe Hart dashed out of his penalty area seemingly to clear Morten Gamst Pedersen's routine through ball, only to unexpectedly leave the job to the surprised Kolo Toure.

Blackburn's ever-threatening Nikola Kalinic delivered punishment from 20 yards.

Yet these are early days at Eastlands as manager Roberto Mancini assimilates his £125m summer investments into an effective unit. Six matches into the season and only Hart and central defender Vincent Kompany have started every game.

"We need time, I said this a month ago," said Mancini (below). "We are missing five or six important players. We are very unlucky at this moment but we must continue to work hard. Only by doing that can we improve and start winning again."

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Most felt were the absence of strikers Emmanuel Adebayor and Mario Balotelli. When veteran midfielder Patrick Vieira powered forward to drive the home side level 10 minutes into the second half, there seemed plenty of time and chances to come to complete victory.

With Roque Santa Cruz and Jo on the bench, Mancini turned to the lanky Brazilian but he was short of pace and confidence, squandering an excellent chance when put through, then failing to finish with a conviction that would have rendered Samba's last-ditch heroics in vain.

Not that Blackburn were totally on the retreat, Hart partially redeeming himself with a block from Kalinic.

Blackburn celebrated at the end, though the scenes were tarnished by a bottle thrown from the crowd in the direction of El Hadj Diouf. (© Daiy Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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