Rochina pulls Rovers out of rubble
Leeds United 3 Blackburn Rovers 3: Substitute comes to rescue after Blackburn take two-goal lead then collapse under aerial attack
For half an hour, Blackburn looked like a team more than capable of launching what manager Steve Kean described, after spending a club record £8m on Jordan Rhodes on Thursday, as "one almighty challenge" for promotion. And then, against a Leeds side which cost far less to put together than Kean spent on Rhodes, they fell apart. Having been two up and coasting, Rovers were lucky to leave Elland Road with the point rescued by Ruben Rochina's back-heel seven minutes from time.
Quite how Kean will explain the collapse to Rovers' director of football, Shebby Singh, remains to be seen. The gleeful Leeds supporters suggested his dismissal was imminent but with Rovers second in the table, such an outcome is fanciful. More likely is the immediate introduction into the side of Portuguese defender Nuno Henrique and Poland international goalkeeper Grzegorz Sandomierski, signed in the final hours of the transfer window and ineligible for this game.
Kean and his opposite number Neil Warnock chose to highlight what they perceived to be refereeing inadequacies rather than any failings in their own sides. "At 2-0 we were in total control, and the big turning point was the referee not to deem [Rovers' goalkeeper] Paul Robinson had been fouled in the build-up to their first goal," said Kean. "If we'd gone in two up at half-time we'd have probably picked up all three points. But we got a point at a very difficult ground, we're four unbeaten and it's a solid start."
Having moaned about a free-kick awarded in the build-up to Rochina's equaliser, however, Warnock did at least praise his side's resilience. "At two down they might have got six, so to keep going the way we did was super. It could have gone either way at the end."
Such was Rovers' early dominance, orchestrated by Nuno Gomes, the opener was not long delayed. Warnock cannot have been impressed with how right-back Lee Peltier was caught out of position when Morten Gamst Pedersen's pass sent Markus Olsson clear down the left. Olsson had all the time he needed to make ground into the penalty area before hitting a low, angled drive past Paddy Kenny. Peltier was at fault in the build-up to Rovers' second, though he was hardly the only Leeds defender struggling to cope with Rovers' movement. Again Olsson found space on the left, but this time he pulled the ball back for Gomes to strike classily beyond Kenny.
Urged on by the crowd, Warnock's men finally began to put the Rovers defence under some pressure. They cracked almost immediately, twice failing to deal with balls lobbed into the penalty area, the second of which resulting in El-Hadji Diouf prodding the ball past Robinson. Rovers protested that the goalkeeper had been fouled by Luciano Becchio as he attempted to punch clear and they were to feel aggrieved at the conduct of the Argentine striker when Leeds levelled shortly before the hour. This time it was Gaël Givet who felt he had been shoved when he jumped to head away the long ball which Ross McCormack volleyed beyond Robinson. Whatever, it was a superb strike from McCormack.
Becchio was the man in the right place when Diouf's intervention gave him the chance to nod the ball past Robinson, and if Jason Pearce's header had not been ruled out for a push, Blackburn's defeat would have been certain. Rochina, introduced as a substitute, secured the draw, but Kean had cause to be grateful to Diouf, who missed a sitter deep into added time.
Value for money?
With Blackburn having spent over £13m, and Leeds next to nothing, it would be easy to conclude they have been the wiser. But while Rhodes was anonymous, Rovers' capacity for improvement looks greater.
Leeds (4-4-2): Kenny; Peltier, Lees, Pearce, Drury; Diouf, Austin, Norris, Varney (Byram, 90); Becchio, McCormack.
Blackburn (4-4-2): Robinson; Ribeiro, Dann (Hanley, 10), Givet, M Olsson; Formica (Lowe, 55), Murphy, Etuhu, Pedersen; Nuno Gomes (Rochina, 75), Rhodes.
Referee Neil Swarbrick.
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