Ben Brereton Diaz ruined the party at The Den this afternoon as his header earned Blackburn Rovers a 1-1 draw away at Millwall, in what was the Lions’ first Championship game in front of significant home support since early 2020.
Gary Rowett’s side were in the ascendancy for the majority of the game but it took until the 64th minute for Jed Wallace to give them the lead, only for Brereton Diaz to pull things level 12 minutes later as he made it two goals in two games to start the league season.
Drawing at home was a real issue for the Lions last term, with 10 of their 23 Championship games at the Den ending all square, but Rowett will have been hoping that things would be different this term given the return of supporters.
But the same old issues plagued the home side in south London as they were unable to hold onto their lead and forced to settle for a second consecutive 1-1 draw to start the league season.
Two dangerous inswinging corners gave the home side the better of the chances in a cagey opening quarter of an hour, with Jake Cooper missing out on an opportunity to mark his Championship return with a goal by heading an effort wide after 5 minutes.
Wallace looked the most likely to provide the spark to break the deadlock as the half wore on and nearly did 10 minutes before the break when Cooper met his corner at the back post but the defender’s header was off target.
That breathed some more life into the home support and their side responded on the pitch as George Saville saw a short-range effort blocked after a low cross from Scott Malone.
A frenzied finish to the half saw a Millwall penalty waved away and another Lions’ corner headed high over the top but Blackburn were able to hold on to ensure scores were level at the break.
To try and claw back some control, Mowbray brought on centre-back Hayden Carter in place of forward Tyrhys Dolan at the break – allowing Rovers to shift to a 3-5-2 and match up with their hosts.
The change in shape helped Blackburn fly out the blocks in the second half, with Carter’s first contribution coming in the opposition box as he hammered an effort into the side netting following a corner.
But Rowett’s side quickly regained their control and restarted the siege on Thomas Kaminski’s penalty area.
No team drew more Championship games than Millwall last season and as the second half wore on the inability to land a killer blow looked set to frustrate the south London club once again.
The talismanic Wallace had other ideas, however. In the 64th minute, a floated cross-field ball was expertly volleyed across the face of the goal by Malone and the Lions’ number seven arrived at the back post to slide the ball past Kaminski and into the back of the net – causing The Den to erupt into celebration.
Supporters were on their feet again moments later when Danny McNamara danced along the bi-line only to see his cut-back parried by the Rovers keeper before the loose ball was hacked away from danger.
Brereton Diaz has enjoyed a superb start to the season after making headlines with Chile in the Copa America and it was the 22-year-old that dragged the visitors back into the game in the 76th minute, meeting a whipped-in free-kick and glancing a header into the bottom corner.
Both managers turned to their benches to give them the upper hand in the closing stages but neither side were able to produce anything decisive in what became a very fiery finish.
The point will feel a lot more valuable to Mowbray and his side than Millwall, who will likely see the result as two points dropped rather than one gained.
Full Time: Millwall 1 – 1 Blackburn Rovers