Birmingham City 3
1-0 Zarate 40, 2-0 Zarate 54, 3-1 McSheffrey (pen) 77
2-1 Elano (pen) 59
- Match reports
- Sat 29 Mar 2008, 5:45PM
- Posted by Leon Collins
Pre match news
Sven-Goran Eriksson makes three changes this afternoon as both sets of Blues come into this game with two draws, a win and two defeats from their last five fixtures.
Didi Hamann returns to the starting XI along with Elano and Jihai Sun. Michael Johnson (unfit), Martin Petrov (illness) and Vedran Corluka miss out, with only the Croatian international out of the three making the bench after picking up a slight knock in midweek.
The first real action came after six minutes and it was the Blues from Manchester that should have taken the lead.
Jihai Sun played a simple ball infield to Elano and 25-yards from goal the Brazilian opened his box of tricks with a very clever pass to find Benjani inside the box.
Under great pressure from Radhi Jaidi, the Zimbabwean striker held him off before turning to hit the base of the post from close range.
The game came to life in the 15th minute as from set pieces Birmingham threatened to score twice in quick succession – both chances falling to former Bolton man Jaidi.
Firstly he just couldn't get a shot off after getting the ball inside the six-yard box, but the second time City had Elano to thank for marshalling the right hand post and clearing from almost off the goal line.
Birmingham threatened again just five minutes later and it took a great tackle inside the penalty area from Richard Dunne on Zarate to prevent the Argentine striker opening the scoring. But Larsson fired in the cross as the ball fell loose and as Zarate missed it, Jihai Sun almost powered the ball into his own net, luckily it flew over Joe Hart’s crossbar to relative safety.
On 27 minutes Birmingham were left to rue another chance as Gary McSheffrey wasted a glorious opportunity. Seb Larsson's simple cross from the right led to a mix-up between Dunne and Jihai as the big Irishman could only flick the ball on for the unmarked McSheffrey who blazed over from 12-yards out.
Just after the half hour mark City had Joe Hart to thank as Franck Queudrue’s elaborate over-head kick from the edge of the box needed tipping over by the Under 21 international.
Six minutes before the break Rob Styles upset the home crowd, not for the first time in his life, but the Birmingham fans wanted a penalty as Larsson needed no invite to go to ground in the penalty area.
But just a minute later it was all forgotten as the home side took the lead. A long ball through the middle caught out the City backline and Mauro Zarate made the finish look easy as he lifted the ball over Hart and into the goal.
Birmingham fully deserved their lead at the break and the only bonus for Sven being that the scoreline wasn't as bad as it could have been!.
HALF TIME: Birmingham 1-0 City
No changes at half time for either side with Alex McLeish the happier of the two managers at the restart.
That happiness continued for the Scot too as Birmingham doubled their lead on 54 minutes. Forssell won a header from a long clearance for Larsson to feed a lovely ball to Zarate and from the edge of the box the confident striker fired a fine shot into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.
But almost immediately Manchester City were back in the game as the atmosphere reached boiling point at St Andrews.
A poor back pass set Benjani free and Queudrue hauled back the striker in the area…penalty…and worse for Birmingham a red card followed for the Frenchman.
After a delay due to the home side’s protests, Elano slammed home the penalty, despite having at least three Birmingham players trying to put him off as he waited on the edge of the box.
The cheers had turned to jeers first then nervous cries from the home support as Sven’s men found a way back in to the game and took the upper hand.
On 69 minutes City could have had a second penalty too as substitute Caicedo weaved his way through with a great run before appearing to be caught inside the box - referee Styles knew better than to further incur the wrath of the home fans.
Instead on 75 minutes Styles ensured himself the freedom of Birmingham by awarding the home side the softest penalty of the season. Jihai Sun won a clear shoulder-to-shoulder challenge with McSheffrey - but somehow the referee pointed to the spot.
And to make matters worse it was McSheffrey who picked himself up to tuck away the penalty and put the 10-men 3-1 up.
Despite pressing to find a way back into the game Sven's men couldn't put any of the few chances they created away and ultimately Birmingham held on to claim a vital three points in their fight against relegation.
FULL TIME: Birmingham 3-1 City
mcfc.co.uk's Man of the Match: Elano. Showed fight for the cause and took his penalty very well.