Benni grounds City high-flyers

Benni McCarthy opened his Premier League scoring account for the new season as Blackburn took the wind out of Manchester City’s sails with a 1-0 win at Ewood Park on Sunday.

The South African striker pounced after 13 minutes to claim what was to be the only goal of a match both sides ended with 10 men.

The three points lifted Mark Hughes’s side into seventh place while City, who had started the season brightly under new boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, slipped a place to fifth as a result of Arsenal’s win over Portsmouth earlier in the day.

The tone for a fiercely fought contest was set in the fifth minute, when City skipper Richard Dunne clattered into Robbie Savage, who was only able to hobble on for a further 12 minutes before being replaced by Tugay.

By that stage, Blackburn were in front thanks to McCarthy’s predatory instincts.

The City defence failed to deal with an inswinging corner from David Bentley which found Christopher Samba at the back post.

The defender in turn picked out Roque Santa Cruz whose header was parried by Kasper Schmeichel, giving the South African the opportunity to finish from close range.

Bentley, who was named last week in England’s squad for the upcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers against Israel and Russia, looked lively and Blackburn almost doubled their lead when midfielder David Dunn headed one of the winger’s free kicks over the bar.

Another precise delivery from Bentley gave Morten Gamst Pedersen a great chance in first-half stoppage time but the Norwegian’s effort was well-saved by Schmeichel.

Paraguay international Santa Cruz could do no better, failing to get a shot away after being sent clear by McCarthy five minutes after the break.

Five minutes later, Blackburn were reduced to 10 men with Tugay receiving two cautions in quick succession for fouls on Emile Mpenza and Dietmar Hamann.

Hughes reacted by replacing McCarthy with defender Andre Ooijer but the numbers were evened up with 25 minutes left when Dunne was sent off for a challenge on Santa Cruz.

Blackburn might have made the points safe sooner if Samba had been able to direct a free header from a Pedersen corner on target but ultimately they were able to close out the contest fairly comfortably.

In another match played on Sunday, Arsenal turned on the style to beat Portsmouth 3-1. — Sapa-AFP

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