City face fixture pile-up as Blackburn earn replay
Manchester City face the prospect of an unwanted FA Cup third-round replay after being held to a 1-1 draw by Championship side Blackburn on Saturday.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini spent much of the festive period bemoaning the hectic schedule that forced his team to play five times in 15 days over Christmas.
Now the Chilean has one more fixture to squeeze into a packed January that already features both legs of City's League Cup semi-final against West Ham, as well as three more Premier League matches and a potential FA Cup fourth-round tie.
Pellegrini has Scott Dann to blame for having to face Blackburn again, this time at Eastlands, as the Rovers defender's second-half goal cancelled out a first-half opener from Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo in a hard-fought clash at Ewood Park.
To add to Pellegrini's frustration, City had defender Dedryck Boyata sent off in the closing stages.
England goalkeeper Joe Hart was rested by Pellegrini as Costel Pantilimon came back into the side, but City still fielded a strong line-up including Negredo, Edin Dzeko and David Silva.
Rovers boss Gary Bowyer left leading scorer Jordan Rhodes on the bench, while former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson played his first game in more than a year after recovering from a blood clot on his lung.
Blackburn, currently 10th in the Championship, are 29 places below City in the league structure, but they hardly looked intimidated by their more illustrious visitors in the early stages.
They harried Pellegrini's men out of their usual smooth passing rhythm and engineered the first chances of the tie.
Chris Taylor advanced unchecked and tried his luck with a long-range effort that deflected wide, with Dann's header bringing Pantilimon into action for the first time from the resulting corner.
City began to take control in the latter stages of the first half and they should have been in front in the 35th minute when Fernandinho pulled the ball back to David Silva in space inside the Rovers penalty area.
Silva had time to pick his spot but the Spanish winger instead slashed his shot wildly over the crossbar.
Negredo eventually broke the deadlock in the final minute of the half.
Silva swung over a corner and Edin Dzeko glanced on towards the unmarked Negredo, whose clever movement allowed him space to volley into the empty net from close-range for his 15th club goal of the season.
It was a soft goal to concede and Blackburn's frustration was clear to see as defender Grant Hanley pushed Taylor and the pair exchanged words before trudging towards the dressing room at half-time.
Yet Rovers' grumbles disappeared as they were united in celebration of Dann's equaliser 10 minutes into the second half.
Rudy Gestede powered a header goalwards from a Rovers corner and Pantilimon could only palm the ball weakly back out to Dann, who gleefully pounced on the mistake and fired home from close-range.
The game was starting to open up and Taylor prodded over as he stretched to meet a cross inside the six-yard box.
Negredo then headed wide after Robinson saved from Dzeko, with Pellegrini responding to City's inconsistent efforts by sending on Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure.
Toure's fellow substitute Jesus Navas came closest to winning it for City, but Robinson was equal to his long-range strike.
And an underwhelming afternoon for City ended on a low note when Boyata was sent off for a second booking after the right-back's crude challenge on DJ Campbell with five minutes remaining.