Football: Dahlin ready for the start gun

Blackburn Rovers 1 Liverpool 1
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The Independent Online

Blackburn Rovers 1 Liverpool 1

The two Roys - Hodgson and Evans -both have a dilemma waiting in the wings; the sort that managers always claim to like, but which can be fiendishly difficult to get right.

Blackburn and Liverpool, who shared a draw of high quality and excitement at Ewood Park, will both soon be grappling with the awkward fact that three into two do not go.

The decision Hodgson must make is when to promote Martin Dahlin to the starting line-up and at whose expense. The Swede came on mid-way through the second half, looked sharp and eager, and grabbed the equaliser with a finish of poise and composure.

Dahlin, the very model of the well-spoken Euro-footballer, was full of the right, diplomatic English phrases afterwards, but he could not disguise his impatience for a greater involvement.

"I wasn't so disappointed not to be in the side when I wasn't fully fit," he said. "But now I am fully fit. I played 90 minutes for my country in midweek. I've been substitute three times for Blackburn and now I think I'm fit enough to be selected."

As far as his ability is concerned, Dahlin, if he wanted to shout the odds, would be preaching to the converted. It was Hodgson, after all, who kick-started his career when he found him in the Swedish lower divisions and took him to Malmo.

"But the days when you had a clear 11 in mind are gone," Hodgson said, suggesting that there could be a good deal of juggling with his resources. But it was clear that he was pleased with Dahlin's progress.

"He still has great strength and he is recovering his touch on the ball," he said. If he recovers much more of it, it will be hard to sit him on the bench.

The scorer of Liverpool's goal, Michael Owen, is another who presents his manager with the right type of problem.

The 17-year-old Owen has pace, limitless confidence and a scorer's instincts as his 30-yard run and drilled shot through the keeper's legs showed. There is still, as there should be, plenty of youthful impetuosity there, or he might have made more of a couple of other chances.

Evans' headache is over what to do when Robbie Fowler is fit again, which could be as early as the match at Leeds tomorrow night. The suspicion is the he and Owen are too similar in approach to play together, although Evans says that it worked well enough in one pre-season match. Besides, that would mean leaving out Karlheinz Riedle, who did little wrong on Saturday, but could not open his Liverpool account.

Inevitably, much attention was focused on another Liverpool forward. Steve McManaman, back in the fold after Barcelona's flirtation with him, had an untypical game. He was not man-marked, he never ran with the ball and was most noticeable for his heading.

One thing was unchanged, though. It was his fluffed chance that kept the game alive for Dahlin's intervention.

Goals: Owen (52) 0-1; Dahlin (84) 1-1.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Filan; Valery, Henchoz (Pearce, 36), Hendry, Kenna; Ripley, McKinlay (Bohinen, 74), Flitcroft, Wilcox (Dahlin, 67); Sutton, Gallacher. Substitutes not used: Croft, Williams (g/k).

Liverpool (3-4-1-2): James; Kvarme, Wright, Harkness; Jones, Thomas, Ince, Bjornebye; McManaman; Riedle (Berger, 80), Owen. Substitutes not used: McAteer, Babb, Murphy, Warner (g/k).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Bookings: Blackburn: Sutton. Liverpool: Ince.

Man of the match: Ripley. Attendance: 30,187.