Blackburn 2 Man City 2
Robinho’s injury-time leveller spared Manchester City another humiliating defeat at Blackburn.
After losing to one basement dweller West Brom a week ago, City looked to be heading for defeat against the team who replaced them at the bottom as Blackburn led by two goals just three minutes from the end.
But Daniel Sturridge gave City hope before Robinho gleefully beat Paul Robinson to earn the visitors an unlikely share of the spoils.
It was the least City deserved as they dominated throughout. But Benni McCarthy, whose Ewood Park future is in doubt, and Jason Roberts combined to put Blackburn in sight of a priceless win.
“Sacked in the morning” chanted the Rovers faithful at Hughes, their former boss. “You started singing too soon” might have been more apt ahead of a busy transfer window for both sides in which Roque Santa Cruz, who missed this match with a calf injury, is bound to be heavily involved.
Santa Cruz’s destination once the transfer window opens on Thursday seems certain to be Eastlands, a move which in fairness will do little to erase the lop-sided look of Hughes’ team.
Felipe Caicedo’s failure to snaffle a close-range opportunity as he lunged at a Vincent Kompany knock-down was slightly worrying – before Robinho’s miss. Even £32.5m cannot guarantee avoiding embarrassment, it seems.
Britain’s record signing has been a major success story for the Blues this term, even if his first half-season in England has been hit by inconsistency at times.
Yet it seemed all he had to do was get his head to Caicedo’s inswinging cross as he strode forward, entirely unmarked six yards out. However, he glanced his effort wide.
It was the best chance City created during the entire opening period, even if Kompany, Stephen Ireland and Elano all had pot-shots from long-range with little success.
For their part, Rovers existed on scraps, with Brett Emerton’s deep crosses looking like their best route to goal.
As Blackburn dropped to the foot of the table before kick-off it is presumably not the survival strategy their faithful supporters have in mind.
However, it bore fruit in stoppage-time as City’s sloppyness in possession offered Emerton the chance to drive the ball into the visitors’ box.
Jason Roberts dug it out and McCarthy did the rest, presenting Hughes with a familiar sinking feeling as he delivered his interval team-talk.
There was no immediate response from the visitors as Emerton and Andre Ooijer tested Joe Hart but Shaun Wright-Phillips then went close to levelling when his back header to Elano’s deep cross bounced to safety off a post.
As the first hour proved, creating chances is no problem at all to City, converting them is usually pretty straightforward as well.
It is the lack of defensive nous that is currently preventing them punching anything like their weight at present and for all the talk of Santa Cruz and Craig Bellamy, it is the rearguard reinforcements
Hughes makes that will be crucial to City’s improvement and his own job prospects.
The visitors’ commitment to attack and increasing desperation for a goal forced Rovers backwards. Wright-Phillips fired wide, then Robinho curled a shot into Robinson’s chest from 20 yards.
That Hughes then turned to Darius Vassell and Daniel Sturridge to salvage the game 20 minutes from time was a damning assessment of £19m former record signing Jo’s ability to turn a game.
With the pattern set, Blackburn dug themselves in and prepared to counter anything City could hit them with.
Allardyce cannot have expected Rovers’ goal to be threatened by one of his own players. But it was Christopher Samba’s hurried clearance that whistled just wide as Robinho closed in.
Wright-Phillips also threatened the Rovers goal, although by the time Sturridge breached it, Roberts had scored at the other end, captalising on the uncertainty Samba’s massive presence had caused to beat Hart with a fine header.
It seemed another defeat was certain. But Robinho put the smile back on City faces with his 12th goal of the season.