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Match Report


Posted Sat 02 Apr 11 at 17:37 PM

Report: Birmingham 2 Wanderers 1

Despite a late fight-back, Wanderers were edged out 2-1 at St Andrew's as Birmingham gained revenge for their defeat in the FA Cup three weeks earlier.

The Whites were the best team for large periods of the contest but they found England international Ben Foster in world-class form.

The former Manchester United goalkeeper produced a series of brilliant saves to deny Bolton, particularly Daniel Sturridge and Gretar Steinsson.

Birmingham had taken an early lead through Kevin Phillips, which was doubled when Craig Gardner hit the target from the edge of the area on 59 minutes.

Johan Elmander volleyed his team back into the game 18 minutes from the end, but it wasn't to be for Wanderers, who threw everything at their opponents in the final minutes of the match.

Birmingham 2 Bolton 1

Owen Coyle made two changes to his starting line-up from the narrow defeat at Manchester United prior to the international break.

With Stuart Holden and Mark Davies both missing through injury, Tamir Cohen was handed his first Premier League start alongside Fabrice Muamba in central midfield. Marcos Alonso was also included at left-back with Paul Robinson rested ahead of the FA Cup semi-final due the nine yellow cards hanging over his head.

Birmingham nudged themselves ahead with just four minutes played as Kevin Phillips scored his third goal in as many games against Bolton at St Andrew's.

After Alonso was dispossessed on the edge of the area, the hosts forced a corner down the right. From Larsson's out-swinging delivery, Phillips took a touch and beat Jaaskelainen from 15 yards, with the Bolton stopper managing to get his right hand on the ball.

It was the best possible start for Birmingham as they came out of the blocks flying, buoyed by the defeat suffered by fellow relegation candidates West Ham to Manchester United in the lunchtime kick-off.

And the lead could have been even more substantial just moments after the opener when Craig Gardner drilled fractionally wide of the far post from just outside the penalty box.

It took Wanderers 15 minutes to settle into the contest, but from that point onwards they were the team forcing all of the play in the remainder of the first half.

After showing Stephen Carr a quick pair of heels, Daniel Sturridge blazed over the bar from a tight angle, while Cohen was close to converting with his head when Kevin Davies laid the ball back into the six-yard box from the byline.

Davies was starting to have an influence on the game and in the next attack he again was the provider. The skipper held off Roger Johnson and headed into the path of Sturridge, with the on-loan Chelsea man bringing a top-drawer low save from Ben Foster.

It was the first of three brilliant saves from the England international, all of them from Sturridge, who must have wondered how he hadn't got his name on the scoresheet going into the half-time break.

The Birmingham-born frontman peppered the home side's goal, but Foster was equal on each occasion, diving both to his left and right.

Before the half was out, the Blues carved out a golden opportunity to double their lead when Cameron Jerome broke the offside trap, however the former Cardiff man dragged his shot wide when faced with the onrushing Jaaskelainen.

Just as with the first half, Birmingham had the ball in the back of the net within minutes of the restart. This time, however, the goal was disallowed for offside when Sebastian Larsson bundled the ball into the back of net at the far post.

Jaaskelainen produced a fine reflex save to turn Ridgewell's prodded effort around the post in the Blues' next attack, but the home side did double their lead just before the hour mark through Gardner.

The former Aston Villa midfielder found space on the edge of the area and unleashed a low, skidding effort which rattled off the post before crossing the goalline.

Manager Owen Coyle's response was to throw on Chung-Yong Lee, who had grabbed the winning goal in each of his last two appearances at St Andrew's. Cohen was the man to make way with Johan Elmander shifting into a central midfield position.

It was a masterstroke from the Bolton boss as the Sweden international got Bolton back into the game almost immediately after changing roles.

Gretar Steinsson hit a long ball up to Kevin Davies, and following the captain's lay-off, Elmander acrobatically volleyed past Foster from 12 yards out. It was a quality finish as Foster didn't move, remaining rooted to the spot.

Owen Coyle opted for even more firepower with the score at 2-1 as Ivan Klasnic and Matt Taylor were thrown into the fray to try and conjure up the equalising goal.

A nervous and tense atmosphere set in at St Andrew's as the clock ticked down, particularly when penalty appeal against Sturridge fell on deaf ears. The striker was clearly having his shirt pulled inside the box by Roger Johnson, but referee Oliver remained unmoved.

And as the game ticked into injury time, Foster produced his finest save of the afternoon to thwart Steinsson.

Taylor delivered a precise corner and the Icelander powered a header on target, only for Foster to somehow palm the ball over the bar.

Cahill came close with a headed attempt from another corner even later into time added on, but it wasn't to be for Wanderers as, after four addition minutes, Mike Oliver blew for the final whistle to end their pursuit for the equaliser.

Birmingham: Foster, Carr (Bentley 70), Bowyer (Fahey 64), Johnson, Ridgewell, Larsson, Gardner, Phillips, Jerome (Zigic 77), Ferguson, Parnaby (Subs not used: Doyle, Beausejour, Mutch, Davies)

Wanderers: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Wheater, Alonso, Petrov (Klasnic 73), Cohen (Chung-Yong Lee 63), Muamba (Taylor 79), Elmander, Kevin Davies, Sturridge (Subs not used: Bogdan, Robinson, Blake, Rodrigo)

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