Full-time: Wigan Athletic 5 Blackburn Rovers 3

First published in Sport by

BLACKBURN Rovers slumped to a third defeat in four games despite a brave second half fight-back at the JJB Stadium.

Trailing 3-0 after 37 minutes, Rovers fought back to level the scores at the 3-3 at one point, thanks to an excellent hat-trick from Roque Santa Cruz.

But it was another hat-trick hero Marcus Bent who then took the game beyond the visitors, scoring twice in the last half hour after Rovers had been reduced to 10-men.

The tone for the afternoon was set after just 10 minutes when Denny Landzaat raced clear of the Blackburn defence and coolly slotted a neat finish under Brad Friedel.

Then two minutes later, Bent made it 2-0 after poor defending from Ryan Nelsen and Stephen Warnock had presented the former Rovers striker with a shooting chance.

Rovers had a golden chance to halve the deficit when referee Mark Clattenburg awarded a penalty for a foul on Chris Samba, but Benni McCarthy's poorly-struck spot kick was comfortably saved by Chris Kirkland.

In a game of unrelenting drama, Wigan then went 3-0 up when Paul Scharner powered home a header from a Ryan Taylor free kick.

At that point, the game looked lost as far as Rovers were concerned but Santa Cruz then gave the visiting fans hope with a wonderful shot on the turn on the stroke of half-time.

Santa Cruz struck again in the 50th minute, pouncing from close range after Kirkland could only parry a Steven Reid header.

But Rovers were then dealt another blow when Brett Emerton was red-carded for a second bookable offence.

Still Rovers kept pouring forward and another slick counter-attack resulted in an equaliser for Santa Cruz, the Paraguayan heading home a Warnock cross.

However, back came Wigan again and another mistake from Warnock led to Antonio Valencia crossing for Bent to make it 4-3.

Bent then had the final say, arriving again at the far post to tuck away another right-wing centre from Julius Aghahowa to complete his hat-trick.

Wigan: Kirkland, Boyce, Scharner, Bramble, Kilbane, Valencia, Landzaat, Brown, Taylor, Heskey, Bent. Subs: Aghahowa (for Heskey, 41), Olembe (for Aghahowa, 90) Not used: Granqvist, Koumas, Pollitt Rovers: Friedel, Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Bentley, Reid, Savage, Pedersen, Santa Cruz, McCarthy. Subs: Derbyshire (for McCarthy, 75), Dunn (for Santa Cruz, 90) Not used: Olsson, Mokoena, Brown

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