Saints sink as Rovers warm up for FA Cup

Blackburn Rovers 3 Southampton 0
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It clearly means a lot to Mark Hughes to know he is respected by his peers. Offended by the repeated portrayals of his side as crudely physical and dourly defensive, he would much rather dwell on the compliments paid to them by Arsène Wenger when Arsenal won narrowly at Ewood Park last month.

It clearly means a lot to Mark Hughes to know he is respected by his peers. Offended by the repeated portrayals of his side as crudely physical and dourly defensive, he would much rather dwell on the compliments paid to them by Arsène Wenger when Arsenal won narrowly at Ewood Park last month.

"Their physical game has been exaggerated," Wenger said. "You don't expect to find them rolling out a red carpet and inviting you to play your football but they are very fair. And the game they play is very well organised."

Hughes believes the criticism, fanned by comments from Chelsea's Jose Mourinho after Arjen Robben was injured at Ewood Park in February, is unfair, failing to acknowledge the work-rate and creativity of his players, whose lack of goals he blames only on the lack of a top-class Premiership striker.

Southampton are one of only three top-flight sides this season against whom Blackburn have scored three goals, after Birmingham and Norwich, and Hughes was delighted to see a positive approach suitably rewarded, especially with the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal in Cardiff only five days away.

"If there is a message I'd like to send out ahead of the semi-final it is that maybe we are not as defensive as people make out and that we do have an attacking threat," he said. "Although in fairness to Arsenal, when we played them here Mr Wenger did say respectful things about us."

The Arsenal side to whom Blackburn lost by a single goal was not the one they will face at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, when Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires and Gilberto Silva are likely to give Rovers more to think about than the virtual under-21 side they last brought to Lancashire.

But Hughes is unfazed. "As preparation, this could not have been better," he said. "We have looked capable of a performance like this and it will help us a lot, confidence-wise. We are in a semi-final for the first time in 40-odd years and we are going to enjoy it. But we aren't thinking about losing."

What's more, they can focus on Arsenal with their nagging fears of relegation much reduced, having opened a healthy gap between themselves and the bottom three. Southampton, on the other hand, are back in the relegation zone after a performance their manager Harry Redknapp called "our worst for two months".

Morten Gamst Pedersen's tightly angled drive, Andreas Jakobsson's sliced own goal and Steven Reid's appearance unmarked in a crowded penalty area punished them harshly.

"Really, relegation has been between four teams for some time now and it is still the case," Redknapp said.

Goals: Pedersen (11) 1-0; Jakobsson og (48) 2-0; Reid (55) 3-0.

Blackburn Rovers (4-1-4-1): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Matteo; Mokoena; Thompson (Emerton, 45), Reid (Stead, 74), Flitcroft (Tugay, 49), Pedersen; Dickov. Substitutes not used: Enkelman (gk), Amoruso.

Southampton (4-4-2): Smith; Delap, Lundekvam, Jakobsson, Bernard (Higginbotham, 83); Telfer, Redknapp, Quashie, Le Saux (Phillips, 45); Camara (A Svensson, 75), Crouch. Substitutes not used: Poke (gk), Davenport.

Referee: N Barry (North Lincolnshire).

Booked: Blackburn Emerton, Reid. Southampton Camara.

Man of the match: Pedersen.

Attendance: 20,726.

Comments