Rovers concluded their preparations for the new season with a 3-2 defeat at home to Spanish side Girona.

The visitors’ quality gave them a slight edge on what was an action-packed and, at times, feisty afternoon in East Lancashire.

In a fast-paced first half, Girona scored twice in relatively quick succession through Christian Stuani and Viktor Tsyhankov, before Harry Leonard got Rovers back into the encounter with a confident finish.

After the break, a quality piece of skill from substitute Antonio Jastin created a third, with former Manchester United man Daley Blind getting his name on the scoresheet.

A mistake from Girona keeper Juan Carlos gifted Dilan Markandy a goal and Rovers a route back into the game.

There were opportunities for Rovers to level late on, but Girona walked away the victors.

Head Coach Jon Dahl Tomasson selected a strong team to take on the La Liga outfit. Striker Sam Gallagher and Welshman Ryan Hedges were both forced to miss out through injury, however.

Norwegian Sondre Tronstad made his home debut alongside captain Lewis Travis and Sam Szmodics in midfield.

19-year-old Leonard led the line, fresh off the back of signing a new four-year contract, which will keep him at Ewood Park until 2027.

The visitors made four changes from the side that beat Sheffield United 2-0 in midweek.

Rovers looked sharp in the early stages, moving the ball up the pitch at great pace when the opportunity was there to do so, but they couldn’t quite find the space to test Carlos.

It didn’t take long for tempers to flare, as Travis protested at a challenge made on him by Venezuelan Yangel Herrera. The incident set the tone for the next few minutes, as tough tackles consistently flew in before referee Thomas Bramall calmed things down.

Jastin replaced Pablo Torres after 13 minutes, with the latter not being able to recover from an early challenge.

Tyrhys Dolan was heavily involved in the first 20 minutes, using his electric pace to regain possession and to look to create opportunities.

A superb block by Dom Hyam prevented Girona skipper Christian Stuani from putting the away side ahead from close range after the veteran striker was found by Jastin.

Moments later, Girona took the lead. Tsyhankov drilled a low cross to the back post, where Stuani was waiting to sweep the ball beyond Thomas Kaminski and into the bottom right corner.

Travis registered Rovers’ first effort on target after his run into the area wasn’t picked up on, but there was no real power in his strike and Carlos was able to make a comfortable save.

A rapid counter-attack then followed, which resulted in the away side doubling their advantage. Tsyhankov’s left-footed finish from just inside the area was perfectly placed.

With just over five minutes to go until the interval, Rovers pulled one back, and it was a really well-worked move. Szmodics latched onto a nicely-weighted Tyrhys Dolan ball which split the visitors’ defence. Rovers‘ 2022/23 newcomer of the season then squared to Leonard, who coolly tapped home inside the left upright.

The game was becoming increasingly end-to-end as the break approached, as Tsyhankov almost restored Girona two-goal cushion, but the former Dynamo Kyiv man failed to get the crucial touch needed.

Rovers looked comfortable on the ball early in the second period, but were caught out when substitute Manu Vallejo wasn’t tracked on a run to the far post. The Spaniard couldn’t supply the finish to make Tomasson’s men pay, however.

An outrageous bit of trickery from Jastin set up Girona’s third. The 19-year-old guided a delightful back heel into the stride of Blind, who blasted across goal to score with ease.

Dominic Hyam wasted no time getting the ball to the feet of Leonard when he won the ball back just beyond the half-way line. Unfortunately for Rovers, the youngster couldn’t quite get enough conviction behind his attempt to trouble Carlos.

A nightmare moment for Carlos laid Rovers’ second goal on a plate. The experienced Spanish stopper picked out Dilan Markandy in an attempt to play out from the back, and Markandy had the easiest of tasks to roll the ball into an empty net.

Soon after, Dolan saw yellow for a rash challenge on Yan Couto, who had come off the bench for the away side at half-time.

A late half-chance to equalise went begging as Rankin-Costello flashed the ball across the face of goal and behind for a goal kick.

In the 85th minute, the Ewood crowd got its first look at new striker Niall Ennis, who joined last month after leaving Plymouth Argyle.

Ennis was amongst the action almost instantaneously, having a pop at goal and winning a corner after chasing down a loose ball.

Rovers couldn’t find the equaliser that their second-half performance arguably deserved, and the visitors were able to add another win to their pre-season tally.

Tomasson and his players will now look ahead to getting the season underway when they host West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.