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Blackburn hold United 1-1

Manchester: Defending champions Blackburn Rovers held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford to swing the advantage their way after the first leg of their English League Cup semi-final on Tuesday.

A 58th-minute Paul Scholes goal was cancelled out three minutes later by David Thompson as Blackburn, who beat United 1-0 at Ewood Park in the League last month, again matched their illustrious neighbours.

With the away goals rule coming into play after extra time in the second leg, it gives the advantage to Graeme Sounessí team, who won the Cup with a 2-1 final victory over Tottenham Hotspur last year to earn a place in the Uefa Cup.

United have had no need for that route into Europe in recent years and consequently have shown little interest in the League Cup, often fielding reserve teams.

However, manager Alex Ferguson has been keener this season and, bar the injured Roy Keane, picked his first-choice side on Tuesday. They edged a tight first half and should have taken the lead at the end of it when Ruud van Nistelrooy shot tamely at Brad Friedel when clean through.

The big Dutch striker, who has been out of touch of late, missed another good chance in the 54th minute when he sidefooted badly over the bar from five metres out following a precise low cross by David Beckham.

United did go ahead four minutes later however, as the visiting defence failed to clear another low Beckham cross, which was also spilled by Friedel into the path of Scholes, who scored for the third successive game.

Blackburn equalised three minutes later as former United winger Keith Gillespie crossed for unmarked midfielder Thompson to head past Fabien Barthez.

England defender Wes Brown then headed a Gillespie cross-shot from under his bar after former United strike duo Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke had caused problems in the home defence.

Both sides had penalty claims refused in the last five minutes while in injury time 17-year-old defender James McEveley saved Blackburn when he calmly chested an Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shot off the line.

The only downside for Blackburn was the late booking for Australian midfielder Lucas Neil for diving, which will rule him out of the second leg and which was a decision that took the edge off the night for Souness.

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