Hughes satisfied with draw despite Savage caution
Blackburn manager Mark Hughes believes Manchester United midfielder Alan Smith was fortunate not to be sent off in an explosive Carling Cup clash.
Rovers head to Old Trafford for the second leg of the semi-final still in with a chance of reaching Cardiff's Millennium Stadium following a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park.
Hughes' side wasted two glorious chances inside the opening five minutes, before Louis Saha continued his love affair with the competition by scoring his fourth goal in the tournament this season.
That came on the half hour, but within five minutes Blackburn were level when Morten Gamst Pedersen scored a stunning equaliser for his eighth goal of the season and his third in successive starts.
But a few moments later all hell broke loose following a crunching Smith tackle from behind on Robbie Savage.
Referee Rob Styles ended up booking Smith for the initial challenge, United striker Wayne Rooney as he followed through, as well as Savage for grabbing the England striker in a headlock.
Those three cautions were among eight overall in an occasionally tempestuous affair, although Styles was also a little too card happy.
When asked whether Smith should have received his marching orders, Hughes replied: 'Possibly. Maybe another referee would have given it a different interpretation.
'I was more upset that he booked Robbie as well when he was on the deck.
'I appreciate it can be difficult when there are lots of bodies on the ground and it is hard to see what is going on.'
Rovers are now unbeaten in their last five meetings with United, including a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford in the Premiership in September when Pedersen scored both goals.
Hughes knows the return leg holds no fears, adding: 'Overall we are reasonably happy.
'We would have preferred to have won our home tie, but we have won at Old Trafford before and we will have to do it again.
'We have got no reason to go there thinking the tie is over and done with.
'It's a hard task that's facing us, but I know we can go there and get a positive result.'
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson also appreciates the match is in the balance as he stated: 'It's not finished.
'The tie is set up nicely. Blackburn beat us 2-1 earlier in the season and that is a great reminder to us that we will have to play well.'
Ferguson was delighted with Saha's opening strike, with the Frenchman having scored four goals in his last six games.
'He is a fantastic option and a real goal threat for us.'
Despite having spent £12million in the current transfer window on Serbian centre-back Nemanja Vidic and France full-back Patrice Evra, Ferguson has revealed he may yet make a move for one more player before the window closes at the end of the month.
'It's possible we could have one more,' confirmed Ferguson.
'We are looking at some things, but I am happy with Vidic and Evra. They give us great cover.
Rooney, who described the incident between himself, Smith and Savage as 'handbags', feels a place in the final is there for the taking.
However, Rooney also knows Blackburn will be no pushovers as he said: 'We wanted to come here, put in a good performance and get a good result to take back to Old Trafford.
'Blackburn battled hard and it was a tough game. We should have held on when we went 1-0 up, and although we didn't do that I think we still got a good result.
'Blackburn scored soon after we did and I think that knocked a bit out of us.
'But we did very well defensively. We were solid because after their goal they never looked like scoring again.
'We can now definitely win the second leg, but Blackburn have had a good season so far and it will be a tough game.
'Hopefully we can get through and get to the final.'