Blackburn Rovers 4 Reading 2

Blackburn Rovers showed their European credentials with a fifth consecutive victory.

Three Rovers goals in the opening 30 minutes effectively ended the challenge of Reading, in Steve Coppell's 200th game in charge of the club.

A Benni McCarthy brace, a sixth of the season for Roque Santa Cruz and a goal of the season contender from Tugay capped a fine display from the home side, who held on comfortably for the points despite two late headed goals from substitute Kevin Doyle.

Mark Hughes made one change to the side that defeated Birmingham City 1-0 last time out, with McCarthy making his first start in five games, partnering Santa Cruz in attack, who recovered from tendinitis in time to retain his place in the team.

Reading made three changes to the side that also won 1-0 in their last game, at home to Derby, with Ibrahima Sonko, Andre Bikey and Emerse Fae preferred to Ivar Ingimarsson, Brynjar Gunnarsson and Doyle.

Both sides started well, with James Harper and Liam Rosenior both trying their luck from long range for the visitors, while McCarthy laid the ball off for first Chris Samba and then David Bentley to shoot, with Marcus Hahnemann making two low diving saves.

Rovers were on top and opened the scoring in the 17th minute. Brett Emerton drove down the right from midfield, supplied a deep cross to Santa Cruz to head back across goal from the far post and the unmarked McCarthy coolly volleyed the ball into the empty net.

Five minutes later and Rovers doubled their advantage. Following some delightful one-touch football, David Dunn slipped the ball through to Santa Cruz, who fired through the advancing Hahnemann's legs.

The home side were in complete control and added their third just past the half-hour mark. Dunn almost connected with an over-head kick after McCarthy had drilled a shot across goal, but when the ball was eventually cleared, Tugay let fly an unstoppable half-volley into the top right-hand corner from fully 25 yards.

Reading rarely threatened and with their only real sight of goal, Bikey's free header from Dave Kitson's cross went straight into the arms of Brad Friedel.

The visitors made a double change at the break, but it was Rovers who immediately registered the first effort of the second half, McCarthy fizzing a long-range strike straight at the Reading keeper.

Reading came back into it, with substitute Leroy Lita forcing a smart save from Friedel, before Michael Duberry headed against the Blackburn bar and then Stephen Hunt almost forced the ball over the line.

And with ten minutes remaining, Reading did manage to pull one back. Nicky Shorey swung in a corner from the right and Doyle headed home at the near post.

But the Reading revival was short-lived, as substitute Matt Derbyshire was tripped by Sonko inside the box and McCarthy stroked the ball home from the spot.

The same Reading duo did combine once more, as Shorey's cross was again headed into the top right-hand corner by Doyle on the stroke of 90 minutes, but Rovers were full value for their win.