Brazilian star Robinho ensured Blackburn Rovers suffered last-gasp despair for the second straight game as Manchester City came from two goals behind to draw 2-2 on Sunday.
Goals from South Africa’s Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts, two strikers signed by Mark Hughes when he was in charge at Rovers, looked to have ensured an unsatisfactory return to Ewood Park for the Manchester City manager.
But City, seemingly out of the game after Roberts’ 84th minute goal, saw Daniel Sturridge pull one back before the substitute’s powerful run and precise cross set up Robinho in the fourth minute of injury-time as he rattled home his third goal in two games.
“When it got to the latter stages we were struggling, but the lads showed fantastic effort and great character to get something out of it,” Hughes said. “We lacked a bit of spark, but we kept going and I think we deserved that.”
It was another heartbreaking finale for relegation-threatened Rovers, who’d seen Roberts miss an open goal during the dying minutes of Friday’s 0-0 draw against Sunderland.
But manager Sam Allardyce, overseeing his third game in charge since Rovers sacked Paul Ince, said: “It feels like a defeat. It was a terrific performance and I thought when we got to 2-0 we would see it out. But we made a couple of errors. They threw six players up and we didn’t compose ourselves. We switched off and got caught ball-watching when Robinho scored.”
Felipe Caicedo, scorer of two goals in the 5-1 Boxing Day thrashing of Hull City, could have continued his profitable spell inside the opening two minutes when he hurriedly stabbed the ball wide from only 5m after Vincent Kompany headed down Michael Ball’s corner.
The Ecuador international was also at the heart of a splendid City move that ended when his cross was headed wide from point-blank range by the unmarked Robinho.
But City were unable to maintain the same impetus for the rest of the half and it needed a fine tackle from their captain Richard Dunne in the 24th minute to deny Roberts.
The game had gone into first-half stoppage time when Brett Emerton, Blackburn’s Australian winger, fired in a low cross that should have been dealt with by Dunne or Nedum Onuoha, his partner at the heart of City’s defense.
Instead, they allowed the ball to reach Roberts, whose touch set up McCarthy for a crisp finish into the bottom corner.
City could have been even further adrift shortly after the restart when an incisive move ended with Andre Ooijer shooting too close to City goalkeeper Joe Hart.
City, as they’d done in the first half, created the early chances, with Shaun Wright-Phillips heading against the post and Stephen Ireland chipping a shot narrowly wide in the space of 20 seconds.
But, apart from an optimistic long-range attempt by Wright-Phillips, the earlier pattern was repeated as Hughes’ team quickly ran out of ideas.
The changes failed to lift City and any hopes of a comeback looked to have been destroyed when they failed to deal with a free-kick and Roberts was left unmarked to loop a header into the top corner.
But City hit back in the 88th minute when Sturridge fired in and Robinho’s late goal deprived Rovers of a crucial two points.