BEAMING Blackburn Rovers boss Gary Bowyer did not believe his superb side could have played as well as they did in Saturday’s FA Cup 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City.
City – last season’s beaten finalists and this season’s 5/1 favourites to claim the cup – took an undeserved lead into the break after Alvaro Negredo punished slack marking from a corner. But the underdogs ensured honours ended even after impressive captain Scott Dann pounced on a goalkeeping error from Costel Pantilimon to equalise.
Bowyer was delighted, if not a little surprised, at Rovers’ high level of performance in a BT Sport televised live clash which thrust the club back into the national spotlight.
“I’m immensely proud of the players,” said Bowyer, whose father Ian was an FA Cup winner with City in 1969.
“They’ve took the challenge on of playing against some of the world’s greatest players and they’ve exceeded far more than what we thought they were capable of.
“They’ve restored a bit of pride into the club and we’re delighted with them for that.”
After Dann levelled the contest the hosts had chances to win it – before and after City right-back Dedryck Boyata was sent off five minutes before the end of normal time.
So should Rovers have become the first team to beat City since Sunderland, 14 games ago, on November 10?
“You’re getting a bit greedy,” smiled Bowyer. “But possibly.
“We had a lot of balls going in their box second half and we just needed it to drop for the right person.
“There was also a shout for a penalty when their goalie came out with his foot around Josh King’s head.
“But we were delighted with how we responded to going 1-0 down right on half-time.
“It was a poor time to concede and it was a poor goal from our point of view.
“But we’ve got a young group who have got a lot of spirit and character and they showed some belief.
“That was important and hopefully they will be better for this game and it will help their development.”
Rovers players like Dann, Tom Cairney and returning goalkeeper Paul Robinson – playing his first match in more than a year – rightly received plaudits for their displays.
But Bowyer took pleasure from watching City’s magical Spanish playmaker David Silva strut his stuff before he replaced by defender Pablo Zabaleta after Boyata was dismissed.
“I thought David Silva was outstanding and it was a pleasure to watch him live – his movement and ability is just phenomenal,” said Bowyer, who rested top scorer Jordan Rhodes for most of the match, only bringing him off the bench after 81 minutes.
“When they took him off and put Zabaleta on I could totally understand it. Anybody in that position would have put a defender on.”