Grabbi misfires as Rovers fall flat

Blackburn Rovers 1 Genclerbirligi 1 Genclerbirligi win 4-2 on agg
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The Independent Football

Blackburn went out of the Uefa Cup on a night at Ewood Park when they had more than enough chances to repair the damage from the first leg.

Rovers hit the bar three times and missed any number of other chances. When they did make a breakthrough with Matt Jansen's goal after 63 minutes, they committed the cardinal sin of letting the Turkish visitors come straight back, wipe out that advantage and effectively kill the tie.

The tone was set in the first few minutes. In an abrasive opening phase, which tested the insistence of the Blackburn manager, Graeme Souness, that there would be no continued Anglo-Turkish bad blood, Blackburn should have scored at least twice.

In the absence of the injured Andy Cole and with Dwight Yorke on the bench, the strike partnership of Jansen and Ciccio Grabbi were both guilty. Jansen shot wide and hit the bar, after which Grabbi missed a yawning net.

Blackburn also had a penalty claim for a suspicion of handball turned down before they received a reminder of what went wrong in the first match in Ankara. Souleymane Youla, who scored twice that night, created space by flicking the ball up extravagantly but then dragged his shot wide.

Blackburn always looked capable of getting in the telling cross from David Thompson or Brett Emerton, but this line-up was not strong on aerial ability. Grabbi's weak header from Steven Reid's cross was typical.

Blackburn's frustrations continued after the break. Lorenzo Amoruso's flicked header released Thompson, and his shot was fierce and accurate but it came down off the underside of the bar and bounced clear.

The feeling that it was not going to be Blackburn's night was growing steadily all the while, all the more so when Emerton's cross skidded wide of Grabbi's shins. Worse still, Grabbi missed even more horribly when set up perfectly by Thompson's low cross, and he was immediately taken off to be replaced by Dino Baggio.

Souness also brought on Yorke in one last big effort to break the deadlock, and that ploy was instantly rewarded. Yorke managed to send in an early cross and, although Jansen's first effort was blocked, he was alert enough to angle in the rebound.

But two minutes later Reid was robbed on the byline by Mustafa Ozkan and, in the scramble that ensued, Ozkan forced the ball home.

Blackburn had defiant late moments, with Thompson having a powerful free-kick saved and Serkan Balci deflecting Tugay's shot on to his bar.

The Turks' goalkeeper, Damir Botonjic, and the Egyptian central defender, El Saka, had held their side together.

But Blackburn will know that they would still be in Europe with a little more clinical finishing. Their desperation showed at the end with their goalkeeper, Brad Friedel, up field alongside Amoruso.

Blackburn Rovers (4-3-1-2): Friedel; Reid, Todd (Taylor, 77), Amoruso, Gresko (Yorke, 62); Emerton, Flitcroft, Tugay; Thompson; Grabbi (Baggio, 60), Jansen. Substitutes not used: Kelly (gk), Taylor, Johansson, Gallagher, McEveley.

Genclerbirligi (3-1-4-2): Botonjic; Saka, Bozkurt, Mercimek; Baris; Tandogan, Skoko (Karaman, 89), Balci, Daems; Youla (Cihan, 82), Ozkan (Ozbey, 75). Substitutes not used: Bora (gk), Basturk, M'Bayo Ki Bemba, Gursel.

Referee: E Braamhaar (Netherlands).