BLACKBURN ROVERS' first incursion into Europe threatens to be a short-lived one after they suffered a shattering home defeat in their Uefa Cup first round first leg tie last night.
Facing a team of Swedish part- timers thought to provide only warm-up opposition, Rovers now find themselves in grave danger of being left to concentrate on the Premiership after the second leg in southern Sweden a fortnight hence.
A 71st-minute goal from Fredrik Sandell, taken with the composure displayed by Trelleborgs all night, capped an intelligent, well-planned display by the Swedes who (a tie against the Faroe Islands' champions apart) are as inexperienced at this level as Rovers.
By any other criteria they have nothing like the pedigree of Jack Walker's expensively-assembled side. While Rovers cost almost pounds 30m to build, the Swedish side, which contains no current internationals, cost pounds 300,000.
It seemed such a mis-match several journalists came armed with details of Blackburn's record win but within 15 minutes it was clear that statistic would not be required. By then the local radio commentator was already stating somewhat lamely 'they are not being overrun yet' as Blackburn failed to muster a single shot.
They had clearly been well watched this season. Though Joachim Karlsson and Sandell stayed up front throughout, the bulk of the Swedish team quickly pulled into the centre of defence at the first sign of pressure to counter Rovers' customary channel of attack to Alan Shearer's brow.
With Rovers generally in possession they had little opportunity to utilise their other main ploy, that of hitting Shearer on the break, and by the end were reduced to shooting from long range.
That was never likely to trouble Trelleborgs' outstanding Polish international goalkeeper, Ryszard Jankowski. Their only full-time player had already produced a series of excellent saves. In the first period he denied the otherwise anonymous Chris Sutton, diving at his feet after a rare Shearer break. In the second he tipped a shot from Robbie Slater and a header from Colin Hendry over the bar in quick succession.
Blackburn seemed torn between being cautious and showing Trelleborgs the respect Dalglish had advised or pouring forward in their customary way. In the event they did both to extremes and, having entered the second phase of pressing attack, were caught 19 minutes from time as Joachim Karlsson gave Sandell, whose main job is supplying ink to newspapers, the chance to write his own headline.
He also won the 20 krona Tom Prahl, the Trelleborgs' coach, had offered at half-time for anyone who would give him a goal. The sum, barely enough to buy two beers in a Swedish bar, was just an added bonus to Sandell, who said it was 'the night of my life'.
'We would never have imagined this,' Prahl said. 'It is the biggest moment of my career - the biggest of all our careers.
'I am so happy. A 2-0 defeat would have satisfied us. To win 1-0 is unbelievable. It is very good for Swedish club football. People over there don't think we can play, most of our international players go abroad.'
Dalglish was naturally less effusive. 'They are the favourites now and they deserve to be,' he said. 'They won on merit and they deserve the credit.
'We did not play as well as we have in the past, everything starts to pile on top of you when it gets like this. We did not produce the goods on the night but we have a second chance.'
The result will be noted by Manchester United, who play the Swedish champions, IFK Gothenburg, tonight, and Prahl added: 'Gothenburg are a much better side than we are. Manchester United had better watch out.' Tellingly he concluded: 'This was a triumph for good organization, good defending and most importantly for not panicking.'
Blackburn (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Hendry, Gale, Le Saux; Ripley, Slater (Makel, 84), Sherwood (Atkins, 84), Wilcox; Shearer, Sutton.
Trelleborgs (4-4-2): Jankowski; Brorsson, M Andersson, C Karlsson, Mattsson; Hansson, Severin, Engkvist, Blixt (A Andersson, 84); J Karlsson, Sandell.
Referee: H Strampe (Ger).
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