Manchester City 1 Blackburn Rovers 1

Last updated : 17 January 2004 By Footymad Previewer

In a dour match, in which there was desperately entertaining football, both teams looked to have a difficult remaining four months of the season.

City, despite their midweek FA Cup victory at Leicester, have not won in the league for 11 matches over a depressing 11-week period.

The two teams formed a guard of honour before kick-off as a tribute to David Seaman, who bid farewell to City after earlier in the week announcing his decision to quit through injury at the age of 40.

City chairman John Wardle made a special presentation of a salver to commemorate his long and distinguished career in football.

New signing David James, captured from West Ham to replace Seaman, took over in goal and Sun Jihai replaced David Sommeil, the two changes from the midweek win at Leicester.

Blackburn recalled Johansson in place of Martin Taylor, while captain Garry Flitcroft returned after suspension, replacing Paul Gallagher.

City began with a spring in their stride after their midweek victory, which was their first in 15 league and cup matches, though they never troubled Blackburn keeper Brad Friedel.

Anelka broke clear only to be thwarted by a brilliant covering tackle by defender Babbel.

Trevor Sinclair also went close curling an effort narrowly wide from 12 yards when, perhaps, he ought to have done better. There was a lengthy stoppage following a clash of heads involving Blackburn's Jonathon Douglas, who needed three stitches in a wound, and Sinclair, with both players returning to the field with bandaged heads.

Incredibly, it took half an hour for either keeper to be called into action and then Blackburn striker Dwight Yorke's 30-yard drive went straight at James.

Flitcroft was booked for a reckless challenge on Paul Bosvelt who was cautioned for dissent as tempers became heated.

City increased the tempo of the match and in the 33rd minute Antoine Sibierski saw his drive from 25 yards take a deflection which beat Friedel only to strike the upright.

And moments later, Richard Dunne's downward header following Michael Tarnat's corner was superbly kept out by Friedel.

City finally made the decisive breakthrough five minutes after the restart.

Lucas Neill fouled Bosvelt on the edge of the penalty area and Anelka curled an exquisite free-kick around the defensive wall and low to the left of Friedel for his 17th goal of the season.

And City had a penalty appeal waved aside moments after they scored as Anelka tumbled to the ground following a challenge by Vratislav Gresko.

Blackburn surprisingly equalised against the run of play in the 55th minute with their first clear chance of the match.

Johansson's long throw was flicked on by both Andy Cole and Yorke with Flitcroft bursting through to score with a low angled drive to the left of James.

Suddenly the momentum swung Blackburn's way with Douglas and Brett Emerton both watching long-range efforts flash wide of James' goal.

Keegan threw on Shaun Wright-Phillips to replace Jonathan Macken in an effort to give his side new life.

Sun Jihai was cautioned for a foul on Emerton while City were forced into a second substitution in the 77th minute when Danny Tiatto came on for Sinclair, who had signalled to the bench that he was injured.

Blackburn had another great chance to take the lead when Yorke's diagonal throughball released Cole, but James raced from his line diving bravely at his feet.

City failed to threaten the Blackburn goal in the dying minutes and at the final whistle they left the field to a chorus of jeers from disgruntled supporters as the pressure increased on manager Keegan.

Man-of-the-match: Home defender Richard Dunne yet again justified the faith that Kevin Keegan has shown in him with a masterful display in a defence that has looked extremely unsteady over the last few weeks.