City were again left scratching their heads on the road as Blackburn’s 2-1 win at Ewood Park snatched away any reward for another promising away display.
Morten Pedersen’s well-taken goal 11 minutes from time settled a sodden contest in the teeming Lancashire rain, despite the Foxes again coming from behind to take control of proceedings.
Trailing to a first-half opener from Nuno Gomes at the break, Nigel Pearson’s men looked to be in the box seat when Jamie Vardy seized on a Scott Dann mistake to slot his first league goal for City 10 minutes into the second period.
But the Foxes striker saw a second strike questionably ruled out for offside 15 minutes from the end, before Pedersen’s curling finish gave Rovers the points.
Following a similar setback at Charlton on Tuesday – a game City created enough chances in to win comfortably – this was another frustrating trip for the Blues, who were much the better side against Steve Kean’s embattled Rovers.
The win will come as a welcome relief to Kean, whose side have pulled together seven points from their first three outings following relegation from the Premier League, while City must look to successive home games in the coming week as their chance to move on.
Matchdays at Ewood Park have become a bizarre affair in recent months. Even when the home side are in full flow, Kean suffers the taunts of the Rovers faithful, whose faith in him is audibly absent. City’s attempts to exploit the situation included the introduction of Andy King and David Nugent to Pearson’s starting eleven.
An early City goal could have considerably increased the pressure on the home side. That they didn’t get one was only thanks to the brilliance of former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson, who flung himself across his goal on 12 minutes to prevent Nugent nodding in Ben Marshall’s cross from point-blank range.
It was a truly world class save from the Rovers stopper, one that should have ignited the fires within the home support. The impact was minimal. The eerie quiet continued.
City threatened again on 25 minutes. Looking stronger in defence with every game, Liam Moore opted to stay forward after a set-piece had been cleared, before being found by Danny Drinkwater down the right. Moore’s cross was intentionally-deep, Vardy headed back across goal and only a third runner was missing.
The Foxes continued to hunt. Nugent and King combined in the inside-right channel. King sold his marker a wonderful dummy to check back onto his right foot and only a brilliant block from the sliding Dann denied him, with Robinson’s far post in sight.
The disillusionment within the Rovers support grew but, strangely, their side responded with their first meaningful attack and took the lead.
Jason Lowe was rewarded for pressing Paul Konchesky with a fortunate break off the City full-back, picked out Gomes on the edge of the box and the experienced Portuguese showed excellent technique to curl inside the left-hand post.
City were annoyed that Kasper Schmeichel’s view had been impaired by striker Edinho, who was standing in an offside position, but the visitors almost responded before the break – Vardy teeing up Nugent for a low drive Robinson saw all the way.
Rovers’ lead barely survived 10 minutes after the interval, thanks to a desperate moment from Dann.
The former Birmingham defender was entirely in control of the situation as he sought to guide Nugent’s flick-on back to goalkeeper Robinson. But his touch deserted him and Vardy nipped in.
Having missed a guilt-edged chance in the closing stages of the midweek defeat to Charlton, the summer signing from Fleetwood could have been forgiven for showing some nerves. His finish was calmness personified.
It was begging for City to crank up the pressure. On 66 minutes, the already-cautioned Danny Murphy bundled Vardy over on the edge of the box, Ben Marshall’s free-kick crashed into the wall and Konchesky’s follow-up was cleared off the line by the Rovers captain.
Pearson introduced Anthony Knockaert in an attempt to increase the pressure and the Frenchman nearly had a telling impact 15 minutes from time – drifting in a delivery from the right that Vardy headed brilliantly beyond Robinson.
Vardy had celebrated for a good 30 seconds before he realised the goal had been chalked off for an apparent offside and City’s frustration was compounded four minutes later when Rovers hit their winner.
There was an element of fortune about the approach, as substitute Ruben Rochina’s speculative shot deflected kindly into the path of Pedersen in the left side of the box, but the Norwegian controlled and curled home with his right foot beautifully.
Another frustrating away trip for Pearson’s men, who return to home turf on Tuesday, where they will host Burton Albion in the Capital One Cup.
Blackburn (4-4-1-1) : Robinson; Ribero, Dann, Givet, Olsson; Lowe, Murphy (c), Etuhu, Pedersen; Gomes (Rochina 77); Edinho (Goodwillie 46).
Unused subs: Kean, Nunes, Formica, Jorge, Hanley.
Goals: Gomes 33, Pedersen 79
City (4-4-2): Schmeichel; De Laet, Morgan (c), Moore, Konchesky; Marshall (Beckford 90), King, Drinkwater (Danns 77), Dyer (Knockaert 69); Nugent, Vardy.
Unused subs: Logan, Waghorn, James, Schlupp.
Goals: Vardy 55
Booked: De Laet
Referee: R Madley (West Yorkshire)