A Game of two halves, one of the most boring to have ever graced Ewood Park to kick it off, whilst the most entertaining second half you will ever find left both fans wondering how they didn`t get the 3 points.
Blackburn made two changes, Morten Gamst Pedersen restored onto the left flank, whilst Jason Roberts joining Benni McCarthy up front. Salgado and Di Santo were dropped to the bench. Blackburn were still missing David Dunn, Brett Emerton and Vincenzo Grella through injury.
Pascal Chimbonda, Chris Samba, Ryan Nelsen, Gael Givet Junior Hoilett, Keith Andrews, Steven Nzonzi, Morten Gamst Pedersen
Jason Roberts, Benni McCarthy
Subs: Lars Jacobsen, El Hadji Diouf, Martin Olsson, Franco Di Santo, Nikola Kalinic, Michel Salgado, Jason Brown
The encounter got off to a slow start. Both teams appeared to be slightly edgy, with long clearances dominating the opening 15 minutes. Keith Andrews decided to try his luck from range; however his sweetly struck volley drifted wide. Junior Hoillet looked a threat down the left flank, but a touch of uncertainty was obvious about his play, stuck in two minds, whether to take his man on, or cross the ball. Andrews tried his luck again from distance, this time, sliding wide of the other side of the goal, looking a completely different player to the weekend`s performance.
Blackburn continued to pressure, a long throw by Gamst causing havoc in the Sunderland box. The ball was flicked on, finding Benni out wide, his glancing header looped over the goal. Sunderland countered from the goal kick, Frazier Campbell collecting in midfield, skipping past his man and firing wide from 25 yards. Mayler also had a dig, his 30 yard flying over the goal, watch out!
The long range efforts kept coming, Benni McCarthy struck his free kick into the wall, Keith Andrews took another pop from 30 yards, this time fractionally flying above the crossbar. Roberts was working well up front, holding up the ball for the wide men, whilst Benni was picking away in and around the box. Gamst looked lively, though the quality on some of the deliveries was questionable. The back 4 weren`t tested at all, as a rather dull first half came to a quiet end.
No changes at the break
Blackburn got off to the brighter of starts in the second half. A long throw by Gamst was partially cleared by Sunderland, the rebound falling to Nzonzi, shot blocked. Hoillet then went for glory minutes later, a deflected cross by Gamst bouncing into his path, but was left red faced when he completely missed the ball.
Against the run of play, Darren Bent scored the opener for Sunderland. A swift cross was not dealt with by the Rovers defence, with the ball popping up in the 6 yard box, Bent reacting quickest, with Samba unable to clear of the line, 1-0 Sunderland.
In what has to be the quickest comeback of all time, Rovers drew level within 35 seconds. Gamst Pedersen darted his way into the box, cutting past his man, then striking with his right foot, hitting the post and rolling into the far corner. 1-1. Game on!
Blackburn almost took the lead 2 minutes later. Great link up play by Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts created an opening out wide for Gamst Pedersen, who swang his cross into the far post, Keith Andrew`s outstretched foot managed to glance it wide, unfortunate. Rovers continued to plug away, but things started to change as Sunderland pushed for a second.
One again, against the run of play, Sunderland poked their noses in front. A great through ball split the Rovers defence, with Darren Bent darting into the 18 yard box, and striking into the far corner of the net, leaving Samba and Nelsen puzzled at how they were split, 2-1 Sunderland.
Blackburn almost equalised immediately again. Gamst, looking dangerous out wide, sent in a cross which again bounced into the path of Nzonzi. The young Frenchmen really looked like a man who can`t shoot, flashing his volley wide of the goal. Sunderland countered as Darren Bent was through on the flank. In search of a hat trick, Bent took his chance and struck at goal, this time Robinson was up to the task, parrying the ball to safety.
Triple change for Rovers, with the fans not happy with the substitution of Benni McCarthy
Benni McCarthy off for Franco Di Santo
Jason Roberts off for Nikola Kalinic
Junior Hoillet off for El Hadji Diouf
The substitution paid instant dividends. As Gamst lined up a long throw, Chimbonda made a smart approach, receiving the ball and whipping in a cross. Diouf rose highest, heading into the far corner, 2-2.
From here on in, it was all Rovers, who pushed and pushed for the winner. Great play by Di Santo down the right flank, hunting down a lost cause, laying the ball off for Gamst. His first time cross found Kalinic on the far post, attempting to direct a header into the far corner, glancing just wide. Minutes later, the best chance for all 3 points went begging. A free kick found Di Santo in the box, superb header was finger-tip saved by Fulop. The ball popped out into the path of Samba, who struck wide from 6 yards, should have done much better.
Sunderland had the last chance of the day, with Givet poking his nose just ahead of Darren Bent, clearing the ball for a corner, which was cleared by the Rovers defence.
Paul Robinson 6.5
A few important reflex saves, dangerous deliviries into the box. I think he should of done better with Bent’s second goal
Pascal Chimbonda 6
Wasted too many crosses, but finally got one right to set up Diouf. Decent in defence
Ryan Nelsen 6
Call me harsh, played fine, but he and Samba are more experienced then what they showed today, Bent splitting them twice from 45 yards out.
Chris Samba 5.5
Big miss towards the end of the game, poor marking on Darren Bent, twice. The big man looking a touch shaky!
Gael Givet 7
The best of the defenders. A performance which reminded us what he is capable of, much better from the Frenchman
Junior Hoillet 6
Looks uncomfortable on the flank, I believe he is a striker that either needs to back his pace, or strengthen up a bit.
Steven Nzonzi 7.5
Another good shift from the young man, though his shooting is something to work on
Keith Andrews 6.5
100x better then the weekends game. Actually looked a semi decent footballer today….more of that please
Morten Gamst Pedersen 8
Transfer window must of opened a week early, because I didnt read of us signing a left midfielder. Where did he pull this performance from….Nice goal, decent deliveries, thats all we ask for Gamst
Benni McCarthy 7
Played well, working hard, linked up well with Jason Roberts and the wide man. Dissapointed to come off
Jason Roberts 7
Same as Benni, worked well, didnt really get a chance to score
El Hadji Diouf
Super sub, nice finish, well done
Franco Di Santo
Unlucky not to get a goal, superb save from Fulop
Could of judged his header a touch better, difficult effort though
Points dropped or gained?
Hard to tell. Coming back twice to equalise is hard but we did it, though we will regret the missed chances towards the end, how on earth did Samba miss!