A goal on 66 minutes from Jermain Defoe ensured a share of the spoils after Blackburn Rovers took a first half lead at the Lane.
A goal on 66 minutes from Jermain Defoe ensured a share of the spoils after Blackburn Rovers took a first half lead at the Lane.It was an 18th goal of the season for the diminutive striker and it was a much needed one after a robust Rovers made life more than difficult in the first hour and a Benni McCarthy header was the difference at the break in a game that really struggled to get going.
It was not a particularly eventful start to the fixture that marked Sky's 1,000 Premiership live broadcast, Defoe - recalled to the side - was forraging around in attack, while Steed Malbranque and Anthony Gardner were also in the starting line-up.
Malbranque's evening did not last the distance in a meeting that was like a cagey sparring session, he suffered an injury in a challenge from Aaron Mokoena and was forced off after 28 minutes and replaced by Hossam Ghaly.
Dimitar Berbatov was thrilling the crowd with a number of sublime touches and passes, but the delivery of those around him was not matching up in the first third with Blackburn pretty resolute in defence.
They were pretty sharp in attack on 31 minutes when Morten Gamst Pedersen swept in a cross from the left that was met firmly at the far post by the head of Benni McCarthy, who planted past Paul Robinson to give his side the lead.
You couldn't suggest it was against the run of play as neither side had really established it at this point. Blackburn could have doubled their advantage minutes before the break when McCarthy attempted to chip Robinson after a determined charge from Stephen Warnock.
There was a deflected attempt from Lennon that did not really trouble Brad Friedel in the steady rain and the whistle sounded on a first half that was far from memorable.
The was a more direct purpose to much of Aaron Lennon's work in the opening minutes of the second period, but the clear chance came from a free-kick on the edge of the area after Defoe was felled by Pedersen. Berbatov struck and Freidel managed to parry the ball in the air before clutching at the second attempt.
Our game needed a spark to kick-start it and the crowd were quick to call for Keano and substitute Ghaly was the unlucky one to make way and did not react well to the change.
Shortly after a Pedersen free-kick from the right was rocketed onto the bar by the head of Christopher Samba, but the next goal was to be ours.
Keane played in Berbatov, who spun inside the area and drilled in a shot that Freidel failed to hold and the lurking Defoe was on hand to apply the finishing touch in front of an open goal.
The display was galvanised from then on and surges forward seemed to carry more intent. The excellent Keane chipped through into thre path of Defoe inside the area and the little hitman sought to round Freidel but was forced slightly wide and ended up sending in a teasing cross in the direction of Berbatov, Friedel still struggling for position. Berbatov was about to plant head on ball when Warnock made a goal-saving interception.
Michael Dawson had half a chance in the closing stages when a Didier Zokora free-kick was headed down in the area by Pascal Chimbonda and the big central defender was first on the scene, but could not steer goalwards.
We thought we had it won in the final moments of the 90 minutes when Chimbonda supplied Keane and the striker spun and struck past Friedel. The ball agonisingly came out off the inside of the post.
Jason Roberts was sent off following a double booking late in stoppage time, but it was too late to really make an impact on the game.
A point put us level with Everton on 57 points, but still in sixth place due to a considerable gulf in goal difference. There remains all to play for on Sunday.