The club Ivan Campo left behind hosted one of the great spectacles of world football last night but it is not stretching the claims of a sensational finale at Ewood Park to suggest that, for once, the former Real Madrid midfielder had no cause for regret. On a day of derbies and rivalries, the Bernabeu could keep its El Clasico.
Just five minutes remained of an absorbing local dispute in Lancashire when the two towns linked by the A666 were bedevilled by controversy: Bolton apparently intent on squandering the 62nd-minute lead delivered by their Spaniard and Blackburn about to reveal their inability to convert two penalties as every opponent, with the notable exception of Jussi Jaaskelainen, lost their head.
With Wanderers under siege Quinton Fortune needlessly tripped the Rovers substitute Jason Roberts and the referee Mike Dean, who had dismissed two previous penalty appeals and a legitimate goal for Blackburn, finally pointed to the spot. Dive, insisted Sam Allardyce and his players. Not so, rebuked Mark Hughes and Rovers. Regardless, Benni McCarthy drove low to Jaaskelainen's left and the keeper reigned supreme.
No sooner had the last Bolton slap landed on the back of the Finnish goalkeeper than Roberts was caught in a pincer movement from Gary Speed and Nicky Hunt. This time not even Allardyce could dispute the penalty. Roberts picked himself up and drove low to Jaaskelainen's left. You can guess the rest.
"I have never seen a last five minutes like that, never," said Allardyce, who saw a yellow and then a straight red card shown to his captain Kevin Nolan either side of the second penalty for dissent. "My deep concern is that we have now had five penalties against us in five away games. I'm not saying they all were not penalties, but I will be speaking to the powers that be tomorrow."
Allardyce blamed a "theatrical" Roberts for the first penalty against his side who secured third place with their fifth successive victory when Campo rose to head home a corner from El Hadji Diouf.
Diouf, who paradoxically created havoc all afternoon but left the field just before all hell broke loose, cut across Brett Emerton in first-half stoppage time while Fortune dragged Roberts inside the area in the 83rd minute only for the Rovers striker to be penalised for handball. Given that a header from Zurab Khizanishvili also crossed the Bolton goal-line before Gary Speed cleared in the 38th minute, it was incredulous that complaints against officialdom raged from the winning manager.
Allardyce should have concentrated his arguments on why the referee, especially in the current climate, refused to allow treatment for Abdoulaye Faye when he collapsed with the head injury that later forced his half-time withdrawal and journey to hospital, where he was under observation.
As for Hughes, he was left to rue his side's profligacy and the end of an eight-match unbeaten run.
"The header was clearly over the line and the referee was in a good position to see it," he said. "If we had scored when we were in such commanding form then I have no doubt we would have won." Blackburn's failure, however, was self-inflicted.
Goal: Campo (62) 0-1.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Emerton, Ooijer, Khizanishvili, Neill; Bentley, Savage (Roberts, 74), Tugay (Peter, 81 mins), Pedersen (Mokoena, 74); McCarthy, Nonda. Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Jeffers.
Bolton Wanderers (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Meite, Faye (Fortune, h-t), Ben Haim; Nolan, Campo, Speed; Davies, Anelka (Stelios, 90), Diouf (Vaz Te, 81). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Tal.
Referee: M Dean (Cheshire).
Booked: Blackburn Savage, Neill; Bolton Fortune, Hunt, Nolan.
Sent off: Bolton Nolan 90.
Man of the match: Jaaskelainen.
Attendance: 27,662.Reuse content