Football: Matt finish is tarnished by Graham

Blackburn Rovers 1 Jansen 43 Tottenham Hotspur 1 Iversen 61 Half- time: 1-0 Attendance: 29,643
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The Independent Online
DEBUTS SCARCELY come any sweeter than Matt Jansen's first appearance for Blackburn, but despite scoring a spectacular, if slightly speculative, goal from 20 yards, it still elicited the response from Tottenham manager George Graham that Jansen "is an apprentice". As grudging remarks go, it ranks up there with Glenn Hoddle saying last year that Michael Owen was not a natural goalscorer.

Jansen, signed from Crystal Palace for pounds 4m two weeks ago, in part owed his debut to an injury crisis that reduced Blackburn's glut of strikers to barely two fit men, as he partnered Ashley Ward. As the Blackburn manager, Brian Kidd, admitted later, even the substitute Kevin Davies was on the bench "to make up the numbers" in spite of suffering from tonsillitis.

But despite being thrust into the first team, Jansen was undaunted by the setting and went about transferring his own dribbling skill and impressive technique from south-east London to Lancashire, and he showed Ewood Park his instinctive knack for scoring two minutes before half-time.

He controlled the ball after it had rebounded to him and despite having his back to goal and Sol Campbell breathing down his neck, he flicked the ball up on to his left foot and volleyed past Ian Walker's left hand. Walker was not far away from it but was simply beaten by Jansen's speed of thought and shot. Graham admitted afterwards he had not considered buying Jansen when Palace put him up for sale, yet on a day when he was missing David Ginola, suspended but injured anyway, Graham was clearly lacking someone with the ideas to break down Blackburn.

By contrast, Tottenham's goal was a mundane effort that nevertheless should have given them the momentum to stroll away with all three points. However, winning away from home for Graham's team is proving hard, even when the opposition are reduced to 10 men, as they were when Jason Wilcox was sent off for a late tackle on Allan Nielsen. Tottenham have now not won away from home under Graham in eight attempts.

Tottenham equalised 14 minutes after the interval when Blackburn failed to clear from a corner. Les Ferdinand went up for a header that was charged down by John Filan and from the rebound Campbell forced another save. Filan could only parry into Steffen Iversen's path and the Norwegian headed in from short range. Virtually from the kick-off Wilcox went in on Nielsen and the referee Neale Barry had no hesitation in producing the red card, although Kidd protested his team's good nature afterwards, saying: "We're not a dirty team."

Jason McAteer, Blackburn's newest recruit to the multi- millionaires' club after his midweek transfer from Liverpool for pounds 4m, nearly beat Jansen to the punch in scoring his first goal for the club.

After only seven minutes, Jansen won a free-kick at the top of the penalty box that Wilcox swung in, only for Walker to beat the ball out. McAteer followed up for the rebound and went within inches of scoring, but the midfielder hit the crossbar from inside the six-yard box, and then saw his shot crash away to safety. That was the first contribution from McAteer, who was in tears when saying farewell to Anfield.

McAteer's miss kick-started Tottenham, who at first still appeared to be recovering from the torpor induced by their ongoing saga of three draws with Wimbledon. When they realised they had won 3-0 here last season they instantly looked the more impressive side, with Darren Anderton and Iversen to the fore.

And they went close after 12 minutes when Ferdinand saw his header from Stephen Carr's cross bounce off Filan in the Blackburn goal. That was the first of four close-run things in 10 minutes for the home side, who rode their luck, especially as Iversen stabbed his shot wide of the far post with Filan beaten, before Andy Sinton stuck a leg out on the end of Anderton's cross, only to see the ball flash wide.

Jansen finished the game on the substitutes' bench, coming off on the hour, but not before he had gone close again. A hopeful punt out of defence saw Jansen beat the offside trap but for once his close control let him down.

Wilcox's sending-off put the onus on Tottenham to complete a victory, but Kidd reorganised his remaining men to good effect, denying Spurs a shot on goal in the final half an hour.

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