City pay the penalty as Dickov lifts Blackburn off the bottom

Manchester City 1 - Blackburn Rovers 1
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The Independent Football

Self-confessed Manchester City fan Paul Dickov was obliged to punish his former club for the second time in 12 months at Eastlands yesterday, his goal from the penalty spot 12 minutes from time denying Kevin Keegan's side the chance to advance a couple of places in a Premiership season that seems able only to deliver frustration for the City manager.

Keegan, whose pre-match mood had been dominated by the handicaps imposed by losing key players to injury, was ready to celebrate only a fourth win of the campaign after Antoine Sibierski's goal late in the first half had given City a slightly undeserving edge. But Dickov denied them with his fourth goal of the season, giving Blackburn a point that takes them off the bottom of the table.

Yesterday, Mark Hughes' struggling Blackburn was missing striker Jay Bothroyd following his dismissal against Norwich last week. In his absence, Jonathan Stead pipped Youri Djorkaeff for the place alongside Dickov.

Stead began in search of his first goal of the season. It might have come a minute before half-time when, winning the chase for a Dickov cross, he flicked the ball over David James only to watch it creep over the bar.

Half-chances missed had been the story of the opening half. However, on the stroke of half-time, Steve McManaman chipped a first-time pass into the path of Shaun Wright-Phillips. The England player outpaced Blackburn's James McEveley, and delivered a cross which found Antoine Sibierski, whose conversion from eight yards was impeccable.

It ended the Frenchman's search for a first Premiership goal of the season but came as a blow for the visitors, who otherwise had every reason to feel encouraged by their performance. The point they had taken at Norwich, despite playing half the game with 10 men, had been their first away from home since April.

Stead gave way to Matt Jansen at half-time but Sylvain Distin and Richard Dunne if anything looked more comfortable. City being City, of course, there had to be the odd moment of comedy at the back. Yesterday, it was David James who provided it, the deposed England goalkeeper showing off his outfield skills by beating not one but two Blackburn players on a retrieval mission outside his area, then supplying a fine, 50-yard pass to Willo Flood on the left.

However, City's composure was punctured with 13 minutes remaining when Dickov, as always a menacing presence against his former club, was brought down inside the area within feet of referee Mark Clattenburg by Danny Mills, who earned a red card for his trouble. The referee's instant penalty award was pretty much beyond dispute and Dickov dispatched his kick just inside the right-hand post.

Dickov upset the City crowd with an extravagant celebration when he scored for Leicester here a year ago. He was more restrained this time, although his popularity was hardly enhanced.

Thereafter, Blackburn, who by then had introduced the long-missed David Thompson for his first appearance since an August injury, looked the likelier to prevail and the home side were relieved to finish with a third consecutive draw as Thompson and then Dickov went close to snatching a winning goal.