Blackburn Rovers 2 Portsmouth 1: Mandaric's men show they need the money

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Blackburn Rovers, as well as Portsmouth, have their eyes on Europe. In their case, not for investment, but for a return to Continental playing fields through a high league placing.

They stockpiled three more points last night at the end of a highly fruitful holiday programme, although they limped across the line amid several second-half scares.

While Portsmouth offered their prospective joint owner cause for optimism, Blackburn struggled to hang on having come from behind impressively.

The prolific branch of their Ministry for Spectacular Goals, punctuated the opening exchanges. Surprisingly though, Morten Gamst Pedersen's latest beauty was not even the best of the opening nine minutes.

Matthew Taylor saw to that with a magnificent curling 25-yard free-kick that zipped over the four-man wall and left a keeper even as formidable as Brad Friedel with no chance.

Ryan Nelsen had argued that his alleged handball had been a chest-down, but the only complaint about Andy O'Brien's challenge from behind on Paul Dickov, six minutes later, must have been from Harry Redknapp about its sheer needlessness.

Well though Portsmouth might have been forewarned over Pedersen's shooting, they were still powerless as the set piece was dispatched in almost identical fashion to Taylor's, except it was from closer in.

Steven Reid had already brought a smart save from Sander Westerveld with another free-kick and there was plenty about Blackburn's play to show why they have recorded three consecutive victories without conceding.

They forced Pompey into a rearguard action relieved only by Lomano LuaLua's shot, and the second goal came in the 39th minute from another predictable source.

Reid's increasingly feared right boot proved too much for Westerveld, who could not hold a powerful skidding drive, leaving Dickov to send a neat looping header into the far corner from an angle. Any representative of the Gaydamak family would have seen the need for reinforcements at Portsmouth and Dickov finished weakly when presented with a clear opportunity to make it three just before the interval.

Portsmouth, knowing a win would lift them out of the bottom three, found another gear after sending Svetoslav Todorov on for the anonymous Dario Silva at half-time.

Either side of Robbie Savage arcing a free-kick past the near post, Taylor arrived in the home area to nod off target and completely miss his kick from just inside the 18-yard line.

The period of woeful finishing was compounded when LuaLua missed so badly from 15 yards that the ball disappeared for a throw-in.

With Savage and Brett Emerton failing to land the knock-out blow, LuaLua and Todorov missed late opportunities to seize a point.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Khizanishvili, Nelsen, Matteo; Bentley (Emerton, 65), Savage, Reid, Pedersen; Dickov (Bellamy, 65), Kuqi (Tugay, 90). Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Mokoena.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): Westerveld; Priske, O'Brien, Stefanovic, Griffin; O'Neil, Cissé (Robert, 76), Diao, Taylor (Karadas, 82); LuaLau, Silva (Todorov, h-t). Substitutes not used: Guatelli (gk), Viafara.

Referee: M Dean (Cheshire).

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