Last week it was a rash of yellow cards that led Mark Hughes, the Blackburn manager, into a tirade against refereeing standards. This time his complaints were different but along no less frustrating lines after Peter Walton denied his side the second-half penalty which might have given Blackburn's season the impetus to reach a meaningful conclusion. Tottenham played well enough to deserve a point, but Hughes felt hard done by after the Northampton official turned down David Bentley's appeal for a spot-kick after a collision with defender Gilberto.
It was a debatable moment, the issue being whether it was deliberate obstruction. "It was a certain penalty," Hughes said. "He stood in the way and even made a movement of his leg to make sure David went down. At the minimum it was obstruction."
If Hughes was somewhat restrained in his language it may have been an acknowledgement that Blackburn, all things considered, had deserved no more than a draw. Spurs, dominant at first, might easily have added to Dimitar Berbatov's goal and done still more damage to Hughes's hopes of using the Intertoto Cup as a gateway into Europe.
It had taken Tottenham only seven minutes to take the lead, exposing a weakness on the right side of defence, where the centre-back Andre Ooijer looked uncomfortable covering for Brett Emerton, who started on the bench after his recent injury.
The goal resulted from a run along the left touchline by Pascal Chimbonda which stretched Blackburn enough to create a hole for Jermaine Jenas to attack inside the home penalty area. Steed Malbranque, having been fed by Chimbonda, was alive to his team-mate's run and put Jenas in behind the home defence. In turn, the England midfielder's square pass was tapped in, albeit with a slight stumble, by Berbatov, whose 22nd goal of the season stood as defenders looked for an offside flag.
Blackburn looked ill at ease for some minutes and Berbatov was given another chance, not taken this time, by Malbranque's through-ball. But having survived this difficult spell, Blackburn began to develop some moves of their own and drew level just before the half-hour.
Their goal owed much to a long, diagonal pass from the left by Steven Reid, a ball taken so adroitly in his stride by Bentley that the England winger's first touch put him inside the Tottenham penalty area with Chimbonda in his wake. Bentley pulled the ball back for Morten Gamst Pedersen, who side-footed home from 10 yards.
Encouraging for Hughes was the debut performance in the holding midfield role of Johann Vogel, the Swiss international with a CV that includes PSV Eindhoven, AC Milan and Real Betis, whom he left last December. Despite a lack of match practice, the 31-year-old gave an assured display and played a key role in ensuring a closely-fought contest in the second half.
Yet Tottenham, the penalty incident notwithstanding, will argue that they went closest to fashioning a win, given that Brad Friedel made two good saves to deny Malbranque and then cut out Aaron Lennon's cross, and that the ever-vigilant Ryan Nelsen had to intercept when Berbatov's cross looked to have set up a goal for Robbie Keane.Reuse content