Rovers hold off Pompey

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Blackburn Rovers came from a goal down to defeat a spirited Portsmouth side 2-1 in the late kick-off at Ewood Park.

After Matthew Taylor gave Pompey an early lead, Morten Gamst Pedersen levelled for Rovers on nine minutes before Paul Dickov claimed the eventual winner on 38 minutes.

Rovers boss Mark Hughes welcomed Dominic Matteo back to the starting line-up for the first time in four months, with the former Liverpool and Leeds United defender having recovered from an ankle injury.

Matteo replaced the ill Michael Gray at left back in the only change that was made to the side that won impressively at Lancashire rivals Wigan Athletic on New Year's Eve.

Pompey arrived at Ewood Park following the news of potential investment in the South Coast club from Russian businessman Alexandre Gaydamak.

For manager Harry Redknapp, the more pressing matter was that a win would take the visitors out of The Premiership's bottom three.

Aliou Cisse replaced the suspended Richard Hughes, while Salif Diao replaced Laurent Robert, who was on the substitutes' bench.

On a cool Bank Holiday Monday evening, it was Blackburn that created the first chance, but Pompey goalkeeper Sander Westerveld was equal to Steven Reid's long-range strike.

It was from Pompey's first surge forward that they broke the deadlock, as referee Mike Dean awarded the visitors a free kick for a dubious handball decision on Rovers captain Ryan Nelsen.

Taylor stepped up and curled a sublime left footed effort over the Blackburn wall and past a diving Rovers goalkeeper Brad Friedel after three minutes.

The goal stung Blackburn into life and they soon replied with a similar goal from Pedersen six minutes later.

Pompey centre back Andy O'Brien was adjudged to have fouled Blackburn striker Dickov on the edge of the Portsmouth box.

That allowed the Norwegian international Pedersen to curl a left-foot shot over the Pompey wall and past a diving Westerveld to restore parity.

The match soon settled into an evenly-competitive midfield contest, with Pompey's Tresor Lomana Lua Lua testing Friedel with a close range strike, while O'Brien had to be alert to block out Pedersen's dangerous low cross moments later.

In fact, Lua Lua's effort was the last attacking note of the half for Redknapp's side, as Blackburn had more of the possession towards half time.

The ever-dangerous Dickov nearly took advantage of a slip from Westerveld to embarrass the Dutch custodian, but the former Liverpool and Real Sociedad keeper was able to clear Brian Priske's back pass before the Scot could intervene.

Hughes's side remained persistent to try and break down Pompey's resilient backline and it paid dividends seven minutes from the break.

After a spell of Rovers' possession, Reid's fierce long-range shot forced Westerveld to get down to his right to block away his shot, but the rebound sat up nicely for Dickov to head past the Dutchman to make it 2-1.

Blackburn finished the half strongly and had more chances in the three minutes of first-half injury time, but Reid struck over the crossbar with a volleyed effort, while Dickov squandered an even-better opportunity with a weak effort right at Westerveld.

The second half saw more attacking impetus from Portsmouth, with Redknapp introducing Bulgarian striker Svetoslav Todorov for Dario Silva at the restart.

Instead, Blackburn threatened to increase their lead, but Robbie Savage failed to hit the target with a curling free kick effort.

The visitors then had a chance to level matters moments later, but to his embarrassment, Taylor completely mis-fired Diao's through ball on the edge of the Blackburn box, as the ball hit his standing foot in his process to shoot.

The home side then had another chance at the other end, but Shefki Kuqi's byline cross just missed the head of Dickov at the near post.

Pompey's efforts to find an equaliser brought them another dangerous free kick after Nelsen fouled Cisse on the edge of the Blackburn box, but Taylor struck his set-piece into the wall before Gary O'Neil's shot on the rebound found Lua Lua in an offside position.

Taylor then caused Friedel a moment of bother with a corner that eluded the American keeper and Todorov at the far post before substitute Craig Bellamy set up fellow Welshman Savage with a chance at the other end, but the midfielder failed to properly connect in front of goal.

The visitors kept pushing towards the end, with Todorov and Lua Lua causing some panic in the Blackburn box before Friedel made a fine save to Taylor's first-time strike.

Pompey substitute Azar Karadas then headed Todorov's looping cross from close range just wide of the far post, while another Pompey substitute in Robert woefully wasted a free kick from distance in the closing stages.

In the end, Blackburn took their first points of 2006 to move up to eighth in the table, while Pompey stay in the bottom three.

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Blackburn RoversTeam StatisticsPortsmouth
2Goals1
21st Half Goals1
6Shots on Target3
5Shots off Target2
1Blocked Shots1
4Corners6
12Fouls12
4Offsides6
1Yellow Cards4
0Red Cards0
69.5Passing Success63.9
14Tackles30
85.7Tackles Success83.3
50.3Possession49.7
55.2Territorial Advantage44.8