Racist chants sully brilliant Blackburn comeback

Blackburn Rovers 3 - Birmingham City 3
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The Independent Online

Racism reared its foul-mouthed head again at Ewood Park yesterday when Dwight Yorke, Birmingham City's former Blackburn Rovers striker, claimed he was the victim of "monkey" noises of the kind that stained England's game in Spain.

Racism reared its foul-mouthed head again at Ewood Park yesterday when Dwight Yorke, Birmingham City's former Blackburn Rovers striker, claimed he was the victim of "monkey" noises of the kind that stained England's game in Spain.

Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, said a handful of fans were involved in vilifying Yorke as he warmed up prior to appearing as a substitute. The former Trinidad & Tobago international had been subjected to the routine booing most players receive on returning to their former club, but in one corner of the ground the abuse apparently became racist in character. Blackburn promised to investigate the incident "thoroughly" today.

Badly, wretchedly, the episode tarnished a hugely entertaining first managerial collision of two of Sir Alex Ferguson's favourite sons, an end-to-end battle befitting their image as grizzled Premiership warriors.

Mark Hughes, dapper in a dark suit, and Bruce, attired in a black tracksuit, patrolled the technical area in the agitated manner of their mentor as Blackburn and Birmingham matched each other blow for blow in what must already be billed as a relegation six-pointer.

Blackburn started and finished in the ascendant. However, they defended abysmally in between and were ultimately disappointed not to gain their second win in the nine games since Hughes succeeded Graeme Souness. Birmingham at least rediscovered the art of scoring goals but, having come from behind to lead 3-1 by the break, they anticipated a third victory of the season rather than the rearguard action that ensued.

Blackburn were ahead inside three minutes. Steven Reid brushed off Julian Gray to cross from the right, Paul Dickov stepping over the ball to enable Matt Jansen to score with from just inside the penalty area.

Birmingham had come into the match with only eight League goals - the worst total of all 92 League clubs - yet proceeded to score three times in a 28-minute spell leading up to half-time. Darren Anderton, the match-winner at Liverpool in their previous away match, equalised from close range after the former Blackburn player David Dunn had laid off a low cross by Jesper Gronkjaer.

Robbie Savage, the linchpin of Hughes' Wales team and reputedly a target for the new Blackburn manager, put Birmingham in front with a hooked shot after Steven Reid cleared Mario Melchiot's cross into his path six yards from goal.

The game seemed to be up for Blackburn after Melchiot, again exploiting the poor positional sense of the home left back Jay McEveley, delivered a cross which Clinton Morrison dummied for Dunn to convert. Two substitutions by Hughes were instrumental in Blackburn clawing their way back into the contest. David Thompson's first touch, a marvellous volleyed pass, sent Reid scampering through to reduce the arrears with a deflected shot.

Then it was the turn of the injured Jansen's replacement, Paul Gallagher, to force the ball over the line after the relentlessly waspish Dickov had surged through Birmingham's defence in pursuit of Barry Ferguson's long pass.

Savage sent a bicycle kick against a post with 14 minutes remaining; Thompson and Reid tested Maik Taylor with fierce long-range shots; and Dickov, played in by Ferguson, had the chance to win it and lift Blackburn out of the bottom three in stoppage time but failed to angle the ball past Taylor as he hurtled off his line.

Pulsating fare, but attention in the aftermath of Madrid will focus on the vitriol to which Yorke alleged he was subjected.

Goals: Jansen (3) 1-0; Anderton (17) 1-1; Savage (38) 1-2; Dunn (45) 1-3; Reid (57) 2-3; Gallagher (64) 3-3.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Johansson, McEveley; Reid, Ferguson, Tugay (Thompson, 57), Emerton; Dickov, Jansen (Gallagher, 45). Substitutes not used: Pedersen, Matteo, Enckelman (gk).

Birmingham City (4-4-1-1): Maik Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Gray; Johnson, Savage, Anderton (Yorke, 74), Gronkjaer; Dunn (Clemence, 82); Morrison (Clapham, 65). Substitutes not used: Martin Taylor, Vaesen (gk).

Referee: N Barry (North Lincolnshire).

Booked: Blackburn Rovers: Ferguson. Birmingham City: Johnson

Man of the match: Dickov.

Attendance: 20,290.

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