After their heroics in Madrid, Bolton fell foul of jealous neighbours at Ewood Park, where two Benni McCarthy penalties, the first awarded somewhat generously, paved the way for a setback to their hopes of pulling away from the relegation places in the Premier League.
Blackburn, knocked out of this season's Uefa Cup in the first round, admitted to looking on enviously as Gary Megson's side held off Atletico to reach the last 16, so found it gratifying to revive their hopes of another crack next season at the expense of their Lancashire rivals.
However, the Rovers manager, Mark Hughes, conceded that his side might have left themselves with too much to do after their first win in five matches. "The top half sides are beating the bottom half teams this season and to get into Europe might take more points than usual this time," Hughes said. "I'm hoping this will set us off on a good run and we do have winnable games to come, but it has become difficult for us, more so with Tottenham taking up a place by winning the Carling Cup."
Bolton had cause to feel that the result did not accurately reflect their performance. A goal down at half-time – unfairly, they felt, after Gretar Steinsson's ball-winning tackle on David Dunn prompted the referee, Mark Clattenburg, to point to the penalty spot – they drew level deservedly through Kevin Davies soon after the restart.
Indeed, it was only the shot-stopping talents of Brad Friedel that were keeping Blackburn in the game midway through the second half, the American pulling off fine saves from Kevin Nolan and Gary Cahill to go with the first-half block that denied El Hadji Diouf. Bolton had also seen a goal disallowed – again unjustly, they claimed – when the substitute Gregorz Rasiak was flagged for offside as he converted a Davies cross.
But when Dunn earned Blackburn's second penalty after 67 minutes – no argument this time as Cahill clearly fouled the midfielder with a tackle from behind – the balance of the contest changed noticeably. McCarthy dispatched his second of this game and Bolton began to fade. David Bentley, on the end of a cross by Dunn, scored a far-post header to take the result out of Bolton's reach before Morten Gamst Pedersen fired home in stoppage time.
"We've had to bite our lip a bit over some of the refereeing decisions," Megson said. "The first penalty was not a penalty and a perfectly valid goal was disallowed. But we caused our own downfall in a way by not getting going until the second half, when for a 20-minute spell we played our best football in a while. Had we played like that from the start it could have been a different story."
Goals: McCarthy pen (25) 1-0; Davies (50) 1-1; McCarthy pen (67) 2-1; Bentley (71) 3-1; Pedersen (90) 4-1.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Emerton, Samba, Khizanishvili, Warnock; Bentley, Reid, Dunn (Mokoena, 77), Pedersen; Santa Cruz, McCarthy (Roberts, 82). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Tugay, Derbyshire.
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, A O'Brien, Gardner; Campo (J O'Brien, 77); Diouf, Guthrie (Rasiak, h-t), Nolan (Cohen, 77), Taylor; Davies. Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Meite.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear)
Booked: Blackburn Reid, Dunn. Bolton Nolan, Guthrie, Diouf, Campo.
Man of the match: Dunn.
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