Souness fumes at Blackburn's sloppy display

Genclerbirligi 3 Blackburn Rovers 1
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The Independent Football

Graeme Souness rounded on his players after Blackburn were left facing an uphill task in their Uefa Cup first-round tie.

Two goals from Souleymane Youla and another from Josip Skoko gave Genclerbirligi the advantage. However, Brett Emerton's consolation effort could yet prove crucial in the second leg in two weeks' time.

"We didn't play in the first half," Souness said. "We only started in the second half and by that stage we were 2-0 down. I thought some of our players approached the game thinking it was going to be easy and we just didn't perform.

"Defensively we conceded three very poor goals," he added. "We got ourselves back in the game at 2-1 and at that point I thought we would go on and make it 2-2. But then we conceded a very poor third goal."

However, the Blackburn manager is refusing to give up on their hopes of reaching the second round. "I thought we maybe should have had a penalty when Ciccio [Corrado Grabbi] was pulled down, and Steven Reid maybe should have had a penalty too," Souness said.

"Maybe their second was offside but that's secondary in my mind. The number one thing is we didn't defend well and we didn't start right. But the tie is not over. There is still a hard 90 minutes for both teams to come."

There was a scare for Blackburn after 10 minutes when a wayward clearance from Markus Babbel set up Mustafa Ozkan, but he could only send a weak header into Brad Friedel's arms. There was another piece of poor defending from the visitors after 16 minutes with Lorenzo Amoruso at fault as he laid the ball into the path of Ozkan, who only found the side-netting.

Vratislav Gresko came close to putting Blackburn ahead in the 21st minute when his 25-yard drive brushed past the post. Then Dino Baggio, starting his first game for Rovers, fired in a close-range shot which tested the goalkeeper, Gokhan Tokgoz.

Blackburn again found themselves under pressure, Serkan Balci seeing a header come back off the crossbar after a good cross from Skoko. Eventually the visitors paid for their sloppy play by conceding two goals in a minute shortly before the interval.

Skoko opened the scoring in the 42nd minute by lobbing Friedel from 30 yards after the goalkeeper had headed out a long ball launched by Ozkan. Youla added a second goal immediately afterwards with a shot into the corner set up by Deniz Baris' perceptive pass.

Souness decided to switch things around at the start of the second half, taking off the ineffective Matt Jansen and replacing him with Andy Cole. They were soon looking a lot more positive with Lucas Neill driving in a cross that caused confusion in the home defence and Cole going close with a header.

Blackburn got themselves back in the game after 57 minutes following a flowing move. Gresko picked out Cole, who cleverly released Emerton, the Australian winger making no mistake from close range.

However, Blackburn's joy last only three minutes as Youla outstripped Amoruso for his second goal of the game, both the Italian defender and Babbel finding it hard to handle the striker's pace.

Souness brought on Grabbi and Reid in the 69th minute. Grabbi found space in the area but he snatched at a chance and failed to test the substitute keeper, Damir Botonjic.

Blackburn kept pushing forward but were unable to score a second goal. They now face a difficult game in the second leg at Ewood Park on 15 October.

Genclerbirligi (4-4-2): Tokgoz (Botonjic, h-t); Daems, El Saka, Ozkan (Akin, 89), Balci; Bozkurt, Skoko, Tandogan (M'Bayo, 79), Mercimek; Baris, Youla. Substitutes not used: Ozbey, Basturk, Cihan, Karaman.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Amoruso, Babbel, Gresko; Emerton, Tugay, Baggio (Reid, 69), Thompson; Jansen (Cole, h-t), Yorke (Grabbi, 69). Substitutes not used: Kelly (gk), M Taylor, Johansson, Gallagher.

Referee: P Vertini (Italy).