Hendry off as Rovers are routed

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Spartak Moscow 3 Blackburn Rovers 0

An astonishing on-field spat between Graeme Le Saux and David Batty and the sending-off of Colin Hendry for a professional foul 14 minutes from time summed up all of Blackburn's Champions' League miseries in bitterly freezing temperatures at the Luzhniki Stadium last night.

The England team-mates clattered into each other as they went for the same ball in the fourth minute, allowing it to run into touch. Angry words were exchanged, followed by what appeared to be a punch thrown by Le Saux. Colin Hendry, the team captain Tim Sherwood, and Henning Berg, all intervened to separate the feuding pair and the manager, Ray Harford, strode angrily from his dug-out to remonstrate.

Rovers, whose previous four games have brought just one goal, could have had two inside the first quarter of an hour.

First Mike Newell flicked on a Stuart Ripley corner and the onrushing Berg beat the Spartak defence to the ball, but could not turn it home from close range. Alan Shearer's 25-yarder was stopped by a fine save from Spartak keeper Stanislav Cherchesov, before Newell had another great opportunity.

This time the delivery was from the left flank through Le Saux, Shearer headed back and Newell's acrobatic effort was too high. But Spartak were looking dangerous themselves, with Tim Flowers twice forced to make brave saves as he raced off his line.

But in the 27th minute another example of the fractious spirit in the Rovers' ranks might have produced an opener. Sherwood lost possession in mid-field and his attempt to regain possession ended with a foul on Vasili Kulkov. The skipper and Hendry had been the peacemakers after the early incident but now they became the warring parties, squaring up to each other before Yuri Nikiforov took the free kick, which Flowers saved well.

But the escape was only for 60 seconds. Tsimbalar, whose impressive display in the first game at Ewood Park had Harford describing him as a possible future target, played the ball through the Rovers' left to Dmitri Alenitchev. The midfielder looked offside but the flag stayed down and Alenitchev, the only member of the Spartak side not on duty in September, cut inside before rolling the ball past Flowers.

Any hopes the Premiership champions had of restoring their pride were ended within nine minutes of the restart. Nikiforov picked up the ball in the centre circle and galloped down the right. The defender laid the ball in to Alenitchev and sprinted for the perfectly weighted return, crashing a right-footer beyond Flowers from 10 yards out.

Kulkov then had a shot blocked by Ripley and Sergei Yuran floated an effort just too wide before Spartak scored their third in the 54th minute.

It was a move similar in construction to the second, with Alenitchev again the link man in a give-and-go, which was far too quick for the Blackburn back line. But the man at either end of the move was defender Ramiz Mamedov, whose finish was as assured as Nikiforov's had been earlier.

All three goals had come down Le Saux's side, the England defender perhaps still bemused by the incident with Batty, and it was no surprise when he was replaced in the 56th minute by Matty Holmes.

Spartak Moscow: Cherchesov; Khlestov, Nikiforov, Tsimbalar, Mamedov, Yuran, Onopko, Kulkov, Schmarov, Alenitchev, Tikhonov.

Blackburn Rovers: Flowers; Kenna, Le Saux, Sherwood, Hendry, Berg, Ripley, Batty, Shearer, Newell, Warhurst.

Referee: P Pairetto (Italy).