Blackburn Rovers 3 Reading 3:
Gunnarsson spoils Blackburn's end-of-term party
By Alan Combes
Published: 14 May 2007
The contrasting attitudes of Mark Hughes and Steve Coppell to the Intertoto Cup were remarkable. Rovers have been gifted entry because of Portsmouth and Reading's indifference. "I didn't see Europe as the holy grail, more a marker to our progress" Coppell declared, "the Intertoto was never an option for me � I don't enter bike races."
"We've achieved our aim of a route into Europe, despite being hit by injuries to three of our main players," Hughes countered, "Instead of two preparation games, we now have two competitive games to get ready for next season."
The game was thrill-a-minute stuff. Sharing six goals was a fair result, with both managers claiming this was a good advert for the English game. Mind, Coppell was disparaging of the lack of protection for his goalkeeper, Marcus Hahnemann, who left the field with three broken bones in his hand following Benni McCarthy's goal.
There was a reliance on the long ball from the off. Early on, a deceptive corner by Reading's James Harper was volleyed narrowly past the post by Seol Ki Hyeon. A drive by Nicky Shorey after a 16th-minute corner hit the inside of Brad Friedel's left upright.
At the other end, Ulises de la Cruz was undergoing a serious examination by Morten Gamst Pederson and it was following one of his more searching centres that McCarthy crashed home his 24th goal of the season following the collision between Shabani Nonda and Hahnemann.
Seol's headed response came 15 minutes later from Stephen Hunt's corner. This time there was no Stephen Warnock to head off the line as he had seconds earlier.
Catching the eye at this stage was Brynjar Gunnarsson, slotted in by Steve Coppell in the place of Steven Sidwell � whom Coppell later announced had left the club. Gunnarsson showed every capability of rising to the occasion as he harried the right midfield.
When Rovers did steal back the lead, Nonda and Warnock did the graft and David Bentley and Brett Emerton almost contrived to waste the chance until the former recovered and scored off the goal-line.
Three minutes later a run down the right by De la Cruz found Kevin Doyle's head for the neatest of levellers. Adam Federici bungled Pederson's cross but Nonda was caught wrong-footed. The same player failed to make capital seconds later in a similar situation and was substituted by Matt Derbyshire who soonplaced himself on the telling end of a storming Emerton run. The game's third header restored Rovers' lead.
Leroy Lita came on for Shane Long and caused consternation in the home ranks. He won a free-kick on the edge of Rovers' area which John Oster could only blast it against the wall but Gunnarsson was on hand to mop up the rebound.
Goals: McCarthy (21) 1-0; Seol (36) 1-1; Bentley (56) 2-1; Doyle (58) 2-2; Derbyshire (67) 3-2; Gunnarsson (77) 3-3.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock; Bentley, Kerimoglu (Dunn, 69), Mokoena, Pedersen; Nonda (Derbyshire, 66), McCarthy. Substitutes not used: Brown, Henchoz, Treacy.
Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann (Federici, 23); De la Cruz, Duberry, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Seol, Harper, Gunnarsson, Hunt; (Oster, 70), Long (Lita, 66), Doyle. Substitutes not used: Kitson, Bikey.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
Booked: Blackburn McCarthy, Samba.
Man of the match: Gunnarsson.