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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 23:20 GMT
Rover Thompson dogs Saints
David Thompson and James Beattie battle for possession
Thompson brought Saints and Beattie down to earth
Blackburn 1-0 Southampton

A moment of opportunism from David Thompson gave Blackburn their first Premiership win in five matches in a highly-entertaining game with Southampton.

Thompson's 26th-minute strike settled the points, but it was goalkeepers Brad Friedel and Antti Niemi who emerged with the honours.

Friedel presented an immovable barrier as Saints battled for an equaliser, while Niemi produced some stunning saves to always keep Southampton in the hunt.

Friedel was in great form as he kept Southampton at bay in the early stages.

It was a gritty performance and we were not at our silky passing best

Blackburn boss Graeme Souness

The big American first denied Chris Marsden, who had been set up by Jo Tessem and then pulled off a brilliant double save to prevent Saints taking the lead.

He plunged to his left to parry Fabrice Fernandes' powerful shot and then reacted quickly to block James Beattie's follow-up.

Blackburn were slow to get into gear, with Dwight Yorke heading over from Keith Gillespie's cross.

The challenge left Southampton defender Claus Lundekvam with a gashed head, and he was only able to continue swathed in bandages.

A tight tussle
5mins: Friedel saves from Marsden.
6mins: Friedel double saves denies Saints.
15mins: Niemi's stunning save from Berg.
26mins: Thompson fires Rovers ahead.
77mins: Cole wastes chance to seal points.

Blackburn immediately decided to test the Norwegian out and Lundekvam reacted by blocking Andy Cole's shot.

Southampton then had goalkeeper Antti Niemi to thank for keeping them level, the Finn reacting superbly to beat away Henning Berg's point-blank volley and then produced a stunning save from Thompson.

Blackburn scented a goal and took the lead on 26 minutes.

Southampton fluffed a chance to clear the ball and the ball was worked to Gillespie and his cross found Thompson who swept the ball past home from 15 yards.

Beattie led Southampton's hunt for an equaliser with some good hold-up play to put Oakley in to cross for Michael Svensson to plant a header against the bar.

Gary Flitcroft and Matt Oakley hunt for the ball
Gary Flitcroft and Matt Oakley hunt for the ball

Former Blackburn striker Beattie then muscled his way past Short to set up Tessem and his cross was desperately scrambled away by Lucas Neill.

Blackburn needed the cushion of a second but it was Niemi who again denied them before half-time, dropping swiftly on to Tugay's stinging shot.

Friedel was again the barrier as Telfer and Fernandes thumped in shots as Saints sought a quick route back into the game at the start of the second half.

Cole then crossed for Yorke to flash a near-post header wide of the target.

Friedel has been absolutely fantastic against us this season and has cost us five points

Saints boss Gordon Strachan

Southampton still carried a threat and after Tessem fizzed a shot inches over Beattie blazed over from the edge of the box.

Anders Svensson's pass played Beattie through but as he pulled the trigger 18 yards out Vratislav Gresko got in a saving tackle.

Southampton's desperate push for an equaliser twice left them under-manned at the back but on both occasions Cole failed to make them pay.

Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Short, Berg, Gresko, Gillespie (Ostenstad 90), Flitcroft, Tugay (Johansson 58), Thompson, Cole, Yorke (Taylor 63).
Subs not used: Grabbi, Kelly.

Southampton: Niemi, Telfer, Lundekvam, Michael Svensson, Higginbotham, Fernandes (Prutton 72), Oakley, Anders Svensson (Ormerod 81), Marsden, Beattie, Tessem.
Subs not used: Williams, Davies, Jones.
Booked: Marsden.

Attendance: 24,896

Referee: M Riley (W Yorkshire).

BBC Five Live's Stuart Hall
"It was stimulating, titillating and absorbing"
Blackburn boss Graeme Souness
"It was a gritty performance"
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