It was a cold February evening at Ewood and for 5th time of the campaign, Rovers met Sunderland in an F.A Cup 5th round replay, both bosses Allardyce and Spbragia hinted of resting key players and this was reflected in the line ups.
Gael Givet was given a debut at left back, Zurab played alongside Nelsen with Danny Simpson coming in at right back. Mokoena partnered Dunn in the middle with Keith Treacy operating down the left and Carlos Villanueva the right. Roque Santa Cruz started up front with Jason Roberts, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Benni McCarthy among the notable names on the bench as well as youngster Aaron Doran who recently penned a new deal at Ewood.
Rovers started the brighter, Treacy first with an effort wide of Gordon`s goal in the opening 20 seconds. Two minutes later Villanueva whipped a telling corner to the front post, Zurab Khizanishvilli flicked the header but Gordon turned the ball onto the upright and out.
But then against the run of play, a weak effort from Murphy ricocheted off Nelsen on the inside of his leg and squirmed through to David Healy who made no mistake in his finish. 1-0 Sunderland.
For a moment is seemed as if this had took Rovers by shock, but soon enough Rovers got hold of the ball again and began to push for the equaliser. Again Villanueva with a superb delivery from a corner onto the free head of Roque Santa Cruz, you would have backed him to score but on this occasion he directed the header wide.
Then Rovers on the 37th minute found an equaliser, from the most unlikely of sources. Villanueva jinked from the right touchline to the edge of the box through the Sunderland defence and unleashed a shot which was blocked, the ball rolled out about 25 yards from goal, Aaron ‘The Axe` Mokoena cut across the ball with some style and the ball sailed into Gordons left top corner. A cracker from the Bafana-Bafana skipper.
Now into the second half, Rovers spent much time testing Gordon, but again and again he was equal to efforts from Roberts and Santa Cruz, his best save coming from a sweetly struck free kick from Villanueva on the 74th minute. As normal time drew to a close, Zurab Khizanishvilli connected with another header from a set piece, this time seeing his effort go over the bar.
The game went into extra time, and with teams exchanging blows without really threatening, as penalties loomed with 3 minutes to go and Sam prepared his shoot out list, Villanueva floated in another sensational delivery from a free kick, and that man Benni McCarthy was there again as Rovers` hero guiding a sweet header past Gordon.
Paul Robsinson – 7
Not an awful lot to do, could do nothing with the goal and dealt well with everything else.
Danny Simpson – 7
Looked nervous in the first half but got forward more in the second and peformed defensive duties better.
Zurab Khizanishvilli – 7
Steady as ever at the heart of defence, could have had 2 goals.
Ryan Nelsen – 7
Solid at the back and was unlucky for the goal, comfortable night for the Kiwi.
Gael Givet – 7
Really impressed me on his debut, a no nonsense defender but also with a good footballing brain and technically up to our standard, could be a good signing and keep Warnock on his toes.
Carlos Villanueva – 8
David Dunn – 7
Always gets you off your seat in the final third, shifted the ball well and also came through without too much trouble to his injury, we hope!
Aaron Mokoena – 7
Terrific goal from the lad and did his job in his usual holding midfield role.
Keith Treacy – 6
He`s definitely got the attributes but isn`t quite doing it yet, lost possession to easy too often and final delivery wasn`t consistent enough.
Roque Santa Cruz – 6
Won headers but still needs to do a bit more, needs more games. Should have scored with header.
Jason Roberts -7
Again worked his socks off and held the ball up well, kept the 2 Sunderland centre halves busy for 120 minutes, a good shift.
Andre Ooijer – 6
Not much time to do anything
Tugay – 6
Did ok, poke in the eye gave him a bit of difficulty with blurred vision.
Scored the winning goal, can`t ask much more chucking on your goalscorer!
He is working a bit of overtime is our man Adrian… he’s doing the fans view for Villa at home tomorrow.
The Observer On Sunday
Mikey will be doing his second stint in the Observer this weekend for the national newspaper.
Hopefully a bit mroe exposure for our great site.