SV Red Bull Salzburg 2 Blackburn Rovers 2: Rovers denied historic victory

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The Independent Football

Blackburn came within 90 seconds of creating club history last night, only to be cruelly denied. With goals from Robbie Savage and Benni McCarthy, the visitors were poised to win on the continent for the first time in nine attempts - until Salzburg's Marc Janko grabbed an equaliser in injury-time in this first-round first-leg tie.

"Obviously we are disappointed," the Blackburn manager Mark Hughes said. "There was a goal in the last few seconds, and from our point of view the tie should have been over by then."

Blackburn were looking to improve on their miserable European record, with just one win in 16 matches, albeit against a Salzburg team with five victories from five home games this season. The visitors survived two half-hearted penalty shouts inside the opening six minutes.

Just before the 18th-minute mark, the hi-tech Bulls Arena suffered a floodlight failure, throwing the ground into semi-darkness as there was still subsidiary lighting. The Polish referee Tomasz Mikulski called a halt to the game, with play resuming six minutes later when power was restored.

The breakthrough came on the half-hour for Salzburg. From a free-kick Christian Tiffert played a low ball in for Alexander Zickler, who slipped a right-foot shot to the left of the advancing Brad Friedel. But Salzburg's celebrations lasted less than two minutes after Savage scored his second goal in 60 appearances, curling a 22-yard right-foot free-kick into the top right-hand corner.

Blackburn made it 2-1 in the 39th minute, again from a dead-ball situation. The goalkeeper Timo Ochs failed to hold a 35-yard piledriver from Morten Gamst Pedersen, with McCarthy on hand to side-foot home the rebound from six yards. In the space of seven minutes Blackburn had more than doubled their goal output acquired in four Premiership matches.

Blackburn were comfortable until the 80th minute when Salzburg pushed forward, eventually grabbing the equaliser in the second minute of injury-time through the 6ft 5in substitute striker Janko.

With the home leg to come at Ewood Park in a fortnight, Blackburn are still favourites to make the group stages but Hughes was far from happy. "The tie is alive for both teams, although I am still proud as we played exceptionally well come the end. After going behind it was a good response from the players.

"We had put in a great amount of effort to get us into the position we were in, and we should have made sure the game was won. But Salzburg came back into it and they got their reward." But Hughes added: "The advantage is still with us."

SV Red Bull Salzburg: Ochs, Bodnar, Dudic, Linke, Carboni, Kovac, Zickler, Jezek (Pitak 62), Tiffert (Vonlanthen 62), Meyer, Janocko (Janko 46). Substitutes not used: Ozcan, Steinhofer, Aufhauser, Winklhofer.

Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Khizanishvili, Tugay, Emerton, Savage, McCarthy (Nonda 87), Bentley, Pedersen, Gallagher (Peter 81), Ooijer. Substitutes not used: Brown, Todd, Mokoena, Jeffers, Nolan.

Referee: T Mikulski (Poland).

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