City dig deep to escape

Manchester City 1 Lomas 84 Blackburn Rovers 1 Shearer 57 Att endance: 29,078
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The Independent Online
IF YOU want excitement, Maine Road is the place to be these days. A week after their 3-3 draw with Newcastle United, Manchester City were involved in another gripping encounter yesterday when they recovered impressively from a goal down early in the second half to equalise seven minutes from time and earn a draw.

Given both the skill and character City displayed, it is hard to believe that this is a team that is deep in the throes of a relegation battle, albeit that the point they picked up lifted them one place to fourth from bottom of the Premiership.

They had competed on almost equal terms with Manchester United and Newcastle in their previous two matches, and for long periods they more than had the measure of Blackburn. Yet the reality is that all they have to show from these three games is a defeat and two draws.

City, of course, are not where they are for nothing. Their defence remains extremely dodgy, and they always give the opposition a chance. But while Blackburn could have tied up the match after Alan Shearer's 31st goal of the season had given them the lead, victory would have flattered them.

In the end, both managers were satisfied - Ray Harford of Blackburn because without the injured Stuart Ripley, Lars Bohinen and Jason Wilcox his side had still managed to stop the rot after three successive defeats, and Ball because he recognised what City had achieved in a situation that had put them under extreme pressure.

Once again Georgi Kinkladze was a crucial figure for City, singlehandedly wresting the initiative Blackburn had gained early on with a series of probing passes and runs that enhanced his reputation as a supreme individualist, but one who always knows where his team-mates are. The 10th-minute manoeuvre in which he glided away from his marker on the half-way line and released Uwe Rosler with an exquisite through ball was arguably the high point and should have been better rewarded. But Tim Flowers beat away Rosler's shot and when Niall Quinn, following up, appeared to be brought down by Henning Berg, the referee saw no wrong.

For all City's neat patterns and clever linking between midfield and attack, they were tending to pull their punches. Having been happy to retreat into anonymity, Blackburn came back strongly towards the end of the first half, and in the 58th minute Alan Shearer produced one of his shots out of nothing to give them the lead. Collecting the ball towards the left-hand edge of the penalty area, he sent it beyond Eike Immel in the City goal and in off the far post.

With Kinkladze forced into a deeper role City had to work hard to get back into the game, and when Rosler's header hit the foot of the post before bouncing back into play via the shins of the helpless Flowers it looked like they might not do it. But Steve Lomas's header found the target and, as City poured forward in a rousing climax, there were near misses for Rosler, Martin Phillips and Lomas.

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