Date: 12th January 2006 at 12:51pm
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BLACKBURN: Friedel, Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Gray, Bentley (Emerton 76), Savage, Tugay (Reid 76), Pedersen, Kuqi (Dickov 84), Bellamy.

Subs Not Used: Enckelman, Khizanishvili.

MAN UTD: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, Silvestre, Ronaldo, Fletcher (O’Shea 85), Smith, Giggs, Rooney, Saha (van Nistelrooy 82).

Subs Not Used: Howard, Bardsley, Rossi.


OK, it was said we had not beaten Blackburn in the last four games – five now – but I’m sure there will only be a handful of United fans unhappy with the result at Ewood.

United felt the force of Morten Gamst Pedersen once again as Blackburn set up a tantalising Carling Cup semi-final decider at Old Trafford in a fortnight, but the odds are well and truly in our favour.

Rovers’ two-goal hero in their Old Trafford triumph four months ago, Pedersen provided United with another nasty shock, blasting home an equaliser to Louis Saha’s opener which ensures the second leg will start level.

After a pulsating contest, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men will regard themselves favourites to face Wigan or Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium on February 28.

Twenty-four hours after a first semi-final which needed a floodlight failure to spark it into life, this was a class match right from the very start.

Blackburn, unbeaten in their last four outings against United, should have been ahead inside the opening 23 seconds.

Saha was surprisingly preferred to Ruud van Nistelrooy in a strong United line-up that defied Sir Alex Ferguson’s pre-match assertion Saturday’s Manchester derby at Eastlands is a far more important affair in the Red Devils’ calendar.

Yet the injury-prone Frenchman has shown a liking for this competition already this season with three goals, including a double in the last round at Birmingham.

So, when Ryan Giggs slipped a pass through the Blackburn defence, Saha latched onto it with relish, sped into the area, then beat Brad Friedel with a clinical low finish.

Bellamy, never one to hold back an opinion, offered Styles a few choice words. The official responded with a yellow card, instantly wiping away the Welshman’s hoped-for visit to old club Newcastle on January 21.

That spat was minor compared to the one which erupted just before the break as Wayne Rooney found himself tangled up in Savage’s legs.

Alan Smith’s attempt to resolve the impasse was a wild lunge at the Welshman, which could easily have resulted in a red, rather than yellow card.

Savage, now on the ground, twisted away and wrapped an arm round Rooney’s throat, the England firebrand responding with a clear shove in the Blackburn man’s face. All three were cautioned, much to Hughes’ obvious disgust, Rooney’s punishment ruling him out of next week’s FA Cup replay with Burton.