BLACKBURN ROVERS 1, MAN CITY 1
Manchester City’s FA Cup campaign made a stuttering start as they were held at Championship club Blackburn Rovers.
It was a frustrating afternoon for City as Blackburn achieved what the likes of Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Liverpool have recently failed to do.
City went into the game on the back of seven straight victories and 11 wins in their previous 12 games.
And when Alvaro Negredo fired them ahead with his 15th goal of the season it looked as though City were on course for another routine victory.
Battling Blackburn hit back through Scott Dann and at the end 10-man City, who had Dedryck Boyata sent off, were happy to settle for a replay.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini was philosophical about the draw saying: “We would have been disappointed if we were out of the cup, but we are not.
“I wouldn’t say we were lucky. It was a close game, but we had more clear options than Blackburn.
“We played against a team which are strong at home. And it is normal teams are motivated when playing against us.”
Blackburn manager Gary Bowyer could not have been happier declaring: “It was a phenomenal effort from our lads against world-class players. We restored pride to the club.
“We knew it would be a difficult challenge, but we showed spirit and character. We have a young squad and you could see the unity we have and I have nothing but pride and praise for them.”
City made seven changes from the starting line up at Swansea City on New Year’s Day with Matija Nastasic, Fernandinho, Negrado and Edin Dzeko the only survivors.
It was clear that Blackburn’s brief was to frustrate as they played a far from adventurous 4-5-1 with top scorer Jordan Rhodes and fellow striker DJ Campbell on the bench.
The cautious approach from Blackburn worked in the early stages as City failed to create a clear-cut chance in the opening 27 minutes.
In that time Chris Taylor had a shot deflected for a corner from which Scott Dann headed straight at keeper Costel Pantilimon.
City also had an escape when they could easily have conceded a penalty as a shot clearly struck the raised arm of Joleon Lescott.
Fernandinho had City’s first goal attempt just short of the half hour which flew straight to keeper Paul Robinson.
Boyata then cut the ball back from the right by line for David Silva to blaze over when he ought to have hit the target.
City made the breakthrough on the stroke of half time in controversial circumstances as Negredo was clearly offside when he netted.
Silva’s corner was headed across the face of goal by Dzeko and Negredo, lurking at the far post, volleyed in the loose ball from inside the six-yard box.
Blackburn silenced City as they equalised in the 55th minute.
Pantilimon could only parry a header from Rudy Gestede following a corner and Dann was on hand to fire home the rebound from five yards.
City came close to equalising midway through the half when Dzeko’s drive was beaten out by Robinson and Negredo, following up, shot wide.
Big guns Yaya Toure and Jesus Navas were brought on as City looked for a match-winning goal which almost came when Navas forced a fine save from Robinson low to his right.
Navas also went close for a second time pulling a shot wide across the face of goal after being released by James Milner.
City’ hopes of victory effectively ended in the 85th minute when they had Boyata sent off for collecting a second booking.
And Blackburn might have cause a massive upset when Tom Cairney curled a shot just wide of the upright.
City sacrificed forward Silva for defender Pablo Zabaleta late on to ensure they at least forced a replay and prevent an embarrassing exit.