Blackburn look to lucrative replay at Man City

Manuel Pellegrini has still not got the hang of squad rotation and after Costel Pantilimon came back into the side to allow Blackburn an equaliser that effectively scuppered their hopes of a few days' warm weather training in Abu Dhabi next week, Manchester City left Ewood Park looking about as enamoured of the FA Cup as Paul Lambert.

"We had a bad day against a difficult team," said City's goalscorer, Álvaro Negredo. "Now we must play another match and that's what we didn't want but at least it is at home this time."

For the second time in a week Pellegrini thought he could afford to leave Yaya Touré on the bench only to end up sending him on in the second half but this Cup tie was a story of two goalkeepers and two very different squads. Pantilimon's inability to hold Rudy Gestede's header from a corner early in the second half allowed Scott Dann to level the scores after Negredo's goal from a similar set piece just before the interval, though just as important in earning Blackburn a replay were the second-half saves Paul Robinson made from Edin Dzeko and Jesús Navas.

Robinson was playing his first game in over a year, having been given the all-clear following treatment for a blood clot on his lung. "I had a back operation for sciatica and they told me there was a nought point something per cent chance a clot might develop," the former England goalkeeper said. "Next thing I knew I was coughing up blood. The club doctor diagnosed me over the phone and I ended up in Leeds General."

That sort of thing can give you a different perspective on life and Robinson says he no longer worries about things he cannot control.

Blackburn were once the Premier League's big spenders, the Manchester City of their day, and now they are actively seeking to reduce their wage bill.

Robinson has seen it all before. "The financial problems Leeds had when I was there were much worse," he said. "At Blackburn we have owners who will back the manager. The players we have got in have gradually turned the club around, as you saw in the performance against City. A lot of credit should go to the players for showing such resilience but it always helps when people are not writing about off-field matters all the time."

The Blackburn manager, Gary Bowyer, deserves some credit for that too, not just for remaining in the job for a whole nine months but for persuading the club to find the money to sign Gestede and Tom Cairney at a time when he has been ordered to slash the wage bill. Both loan signings were made permanent in time for the FA Cup third round and both showed their class against one of the best teams in the country.

"The replay should go some way towards covering the cost," Bowyer said. "That is our financial reality at the moment. I have no idea what City's wage bill might be, I haven't the time to worry about it. I have enough on my plate chopping ours down to size. City have shown themselves capable of beating just about any team in Europe but we matched them. We will go and give it a go at the Etihad just like we did here. I think we have embraced the romance of the Cup but more than that we have put some pride back into the club. We were passionate and committed and we showed we care."

Pellegrini said he had no complaints about the late dismissal of Dedryck Boyata for a second yellow card, which was just as well. Had the City manager attempted to justify his right-back's actions – one foul against Josh King born of frustration followed by a needless and intemperate hack at DJ Campbell – he would have ended up looking as ludicrous as the Belgian defender. "Dedryck is very young, he made a mistake," Pellegrini said. Fair enough. With Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Aleksandar Kolarov and Pablo Zabaleta all watching from the bench, Pellegrini, too, may have been guilty of a slight miscalculation.

Man of the match Tom Cairney (Blackburn Rovers) © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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