McLeish hails Birmingham's delicious duo

Everton 1 Birmingham City 2

Bookmakers are never the most benevolent of folk but at the start of this season it is safe to assume that the odds on Birmingham City being not only Europa League contenders, but also a promising FA Cup side, were decidedly generous. Not any more.

Alex McLeish's side made it 15 games unbeaten against Everton as they continued to demonstrate that their current blend of stoicism and brilliance is as successful as it is intoxicating for their followers.

Against an Everton side that was unbeaten in six, Birmingham looked as compact, as organised and as difficult to break down as they have in virtually every other game this term. The Blues' League position of eighth is not a coincidence. Neither is their spot in the fifth round as they scored two fine goals here to underline that McLeish's men can do more than just work hard for 90 minutes. "I thought the players showed great composure and to go in at half-time 2-0 up was quite a feat," McLeish said.

"Both goals were absolutely delicious and the second in particular has to be a contender for goal of the month if not the season. We will lose a game one day – I can guarantee you that but I would back these boys to come back from the setback because I know the character and power we have in that dressing room."

They took an early lead through a Christian Benitez header and never appeared destined to lose that advantage despite Everton's second-half resurgence.

Benitez nodded a Keith Fahey cross past Tim Howard after just seven minutes. But if the first goal had looked attractive, it was little but the ugly sister compared to the Cinderella finish Barry Ferguson conjured up with five minutes of the first half remaining.

Having comfortably coped with Everton's narrow-minded, pump-it-forward approach for most of the half, Birmingham broke with devastating efficiency.

Fahey brought Sebastian Larsson into play on the right wing and although his cross looked poor, Ferguson dummied and stepped over the ball in a move which completely threw the Everton defence.

James McFadden managed to beautifully slot the ball back to Ferguson who then curled his effort past Howard as Everton stood and watched.

After the break, Everton did come back to life thanks to a fine Leon Osman effort from the edge of the box after 56 minutes but for all the urgings from the Gwladys Street End, an equaliser could not be found.

Louis Saha had two good chances as did Marouane Fellaini and although Mikel Arteta's second-half comeback after 11 months out with a cruciate problem offered Everton hope for the future, last year's runners-up left this year's competition with a whimper rather than a bang.

"We were so poor in the first half that it would have needed a very good second-half performance," David Moyes said. "We got that but it was not enough.

"I thought we had enough chances to get the draw but you have to give Birmingham credit. They have come to Everton and performed well and got a couple of goals and deserve to go through – there is no argument about that."

Attendance: 30,875

Referee: Howard Webb

Man of the match: Ferguson

Match rating: 8/10

Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridgeface-off in the final
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas