Sheffield United 0 Blackburn Rovers 0: Sheffield crowd pay penalty for firing up Friedel

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Blackburn's goalkeeper, Brad Friedel, who saved two penalties in the final 20 minutes of this match, was spurred on by the hostile crowd at Bramall Lane.

"I've played long enough now not to let the crowd get to me. They're actually enjoyable for me. It gets me going," the American said. "The more hostile the more fun it is to play - providing they are not over the top, in a violent manner."

This match was heading for a mundane stalemate but turned into a stunning encounter in the final quarter when Friedel successfully parried two penalties and his Sheffield United counterpart, Paddy Kenny, saved another.

Kenny was first off the mark, in the 70th minute, turning aside the Rovers captain Lucas Neill's effort after David Unsworth was adjudged to have pushed Benni McCarthy.

Seven minutes later Friedel stepped into the spotlight, pushing away Unsworth's penalty, given for a shirt tug on Rob Hulse from Zurab Khizanishvili. Hulse was then denied by Friedel four minutes from time, following a handball decision against Neill.

Needless to say, all three penalty awards - the first two given by the referee Mike Dean and the last by one of his assistants, Mike Cairns - were contentious. Blackburn have now conceded four penalties in their first four Premiership games, three of which Friedel has saved. He has only been beaten by Chelsea's Frank Lampard, and then after diving the right way.

Friedel appears to be in tune with his opponents, but he knows that such a woeful record of conceding penalties cannot continue.

"Sometimes it's a feeling, others it's how they run up," he said, when asked how he assesses which way to dive. "The best penalty-takers don't give you a clue until the last second, and one of the best is [Ruud] van Nistelrooy, because of the pace he puts on the ball.

"He's taken five penalties against me, he's gone the same way every time, and I've only saved one. But hopefully I don't have to save a penalty a game as we go through the season. That just doesn't happen for goalkeepers because a lot of it is a percentage game, and a lot of it is luck."

Naturally, United's manager, Neil Warnock, felt the penalty awards for his side were correct, and the one against them totally wrong.

"That was typical of an international [McCarthy, of South Africa] going down in the area after being breathed on," he said, dismissively. "The only thing missing was a couple of theatrical somersaults. If there was any contact then it was marginal.

"The second was sheer stupidity from their boy [Khizanishvili] as he had only just been warned shortly before that. As for the third, whether it was Neill's shoulder or arm, that's how he controlled it."

Both sides are still searching for their first Premiership victory, and while Rovers may now be off the foot of the table, they and United remain in the bottom three.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kenny; Armstrong, Leigertwood, Morgan, Unsworth; Tonge (Quinn, 82), Jagielka, Sommeil, Ifill (Kazim-Richards, 64); Hulse, Webber (Nade, 17). Substitutes not used: Akinbiyi, Kozluk.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Emerton, Khizanishvili, Ooijer, Neill; Bentley, Tugay, Savage, Pedersen; Jeffers, McCarthy (Nonda, 72). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Mokoena, Gallagher, Peter.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Booked: Sheffield United Hulse, Tonge. Blackburn Khizanishvili, Savage.

Man of the match: Friedel.

Attendance: 29,876.

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