Football: Camara exposes negative Rovers

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers 2

Carragher og 41, Dunn 51

Liverpool 2

Fowler 23, Redknapp 40

Half-time: 1-2

THE SANITY of bookmakers offering odds of just 7-4 against Blackburn Rovers bouncing straight back to the Premiership as champions of the First Division is being questioned in these parts - not least by the manager, Brian Kidd. To say it is an unattractive flutter is to considerably understate matters. On this performance, where a draw flattered the patchy play of the home side, Blackburn may even be pushed to make the play-offs.

"People seem to think it's a foregone conclusion that we'll bounce straight back, but I know it's going to be a hard job. We have to earn the right to be in the Premiership, and there's a lot of rebuilding to be done here," said Kidd.

That is a sentiment his opposite number, Gerard Houllier, understands well. Just three teams have won the title since the Premiership was created, and Liverpool - the kings of the Seventies and Eighties - are not one of them. It would be asking too much for Houllier, in his first season in full control, to turn back the clock and return the club to its former eminence, but the bankrolling for future success has begun in earnest. Houllier has not found it difficult to recruit the players he feels he requires to mount a genuine challenge and five of them - with a combined price-tag of nearly pounds 22m - started the game.

If his charges were not firing on all cylinders then, for the first half at least, they frequently showed signs that they may have the ability to switch upwards through the gears. "We showed that we have potential," Houllier said, "and I feel we can score goals, though defensively we are still not as sharp and tight as we need to be. Converting opportunity into reward was one of the key shortcomings which undid Liverpool's campaign last term. But Titi Camara, at pounds 2.5m the cheapest of the new boys, indicated that firepower should not be a limiting factor this time.

He was at ease with the rough and tumble offered by Blackburn's uncertain, though robust, defensive efforts, and he showed an array of deft touches. These may have Houllier re-assessing his front-line choices, particularly when Michael Owen returns, which the manager said would not be for at least another two weeks.

Camara's delightful pass, neatly played with the outside of the boot, gave Robbie Fowler ample time and space to slide the ball past John Filan for the first goal, and he was also provider as he lifted the ball over bemused defenders for Redknapp to volley home.

Indeed, Camara did his best to bring as many of his team-mates into the game as he could, but a combination of the stifling heat of Ewood Park and the tiredness brought on by two games in 48 hours meant Houllier's other summer signings - notably Deitmar Hamann and Vladimir Smicer - were little more than bit-players.

It was their ineffectiveness, and a break-down in communication, which brought Blackburn back into the game. Carragher generously headed past new keeper Sander Westerweld for Rovers' first; and, in the second half, David Dunn levelled with a powerful drive after a gutsy run down the right.

Blackburn (4-4-2): Filan; Kenna, Davidson, Carsley, Dailly; Broomes, Gillespie, Grayson, Davies, Wilcox; Davies, Gallacher. Subs: Duff, Kelly, Dunn, Croft, Johnson, Taylor, Corbett.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Westerveld; Heggem, Bjornebye, Carragher, Hyypia; Smicer, Redknapp, Hamann, Berger; Fowler, Camara. Subs: Gerrard, Staunton, Leonhardsen, Thompson, Nielsen, Meijer, Murphy, Song, Kvarme.

Referee: P Richards (Preston).