Blackburn Rovers 1 Manchester United 1

Last updated : 28 August 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Manchester United left it desperately late but ultimately emerged from this frenetic lunchtime encounter with the point they deserved.

Having been denied by an incredible display by Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel, the Red Devils seemed set to lose 1-0 for the third successive season at Ewood Park.

However, summer signing Alan Smith swooped in the dying seconds to finally beat Friedel.

It was harsh luck on ten-man Blackburn who had taken the lead in the 17th minute through Paul Dickov's expertly taken finish and then had to watch as Lorenzo Amoruso was sent off for his second bookable offence 20 minutes from time.

For the second successive week they have been robbed in the dying seconds of a lunchtime kick-off and their tally of two points from four games will not make healthy reading for Blackburn fans.

United are currently engaged in a bidding war with Newcastle for Everton's star striker Wayne Rooney but their forward line could hardly have done much more today with Friedel in super-human form.

In the early stages, United had been the brighter side with Cristiano Ronaldo always looking to create chances and cause problems down the right-hand side.

In the second minute, the Portuguese starlet cut inside only to fire well over and his mere presence was bringing strong challenges from Blackburn and free-kicks in dangerous areas for United.

Despite this, a goal out of nothing handed Rovers the lead and Dickov a first Blackburn goal on his first Ewood Park start.

Dominic Matteo's long throw should have been dealt with by John O'Shea but it came all the way to Dickov with his back to goal. There seemed to be little on but the ex-Manchester City striker turned sharply and hooked a delicious finish into the far corner of the United net.

The visitors were stung. Smith found space on the edge of the box after Amoruso's challenge on Paul Scholes but Friedel was there to block with his feet.

Kleberson struck a fierce shot from distance inches past the post before Amoruso sent a long-range free-kick high over the bar.

The two players were involved again on 39 minutes, this time Amoruso cynically bringing Kleberson's run to a close and entering referee Alan Wiley's notebook.

The Brazilian picked himself up and unleashed a pile-driver of a shot that was whistling towards the top corner before Friedel athletically clawed it away.

In the second half Sir Alex Ferguson sent on Louis Saha and the Frenchman proved a constant thorn in Blackburn's side.

Even so, it was Rovers who created the half's first chance, Jonathan Stead meeting Matteo's cross with a firm header but Tim Howard saved comfortably.

Blackburn keeper Friedel was named in the PFA team of the season two years ago and on today's evidence he is back to that sort of form as United found out to their cost.

In the 55th minute he plunged to his right to deny Saha an equaliser before getting down to beat out Scholes' fierce close-range header.

In between Saha had breezed past Amoruso and flashed a shot narrowly over and when he beat the Italian for pace once more after 70 minutes, he was brought down and Amoruso was off.

Blackburn still hung on doggedly despite being robbed of their influential defender, and should have sealed all three points five minutes later.

Australian winger Brett Emerton raced to the byline and cut the ball back for new signing Morten Pedersen 12 yards out in bags of space. Instead of staying calm though, Pedersen snatched at the shot and sent it high over the bar.

United had further chances to equalise. Substitute Liam Miller sent the ball across for Scholes but Friedel was again on hand and then Miller's cross appeared to come off Nils-Eric Johansson's hand in the box although nothing was given.

Friedel denied Saha on 77 minutes after a wonderful Smith back-heel, scooping the ball over crossbar with his feet to leave the forward shaking his head in amazement.

Then, with just three minutes to go, Saha headed Ronaldo's clipped cross down for Scholes six yards out. The United fans expected the net to bulge but again, somehow, Friedel blocked his shot.

However, Ferguson's side were not to be denied, and with less than ten seconds left it was pumped forward, Saha knocked down for Smith and Blackburn's gallant resistance was shattered.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Brad Friedel. If there was one player who didn't deserve to see the ball go in it was Friedel who manfully denied wave after wave of United attacks and looked to have secured the three points for his side.