McLeish hails Birmingham's delicious duo
Everton 1 Birmingham City 2
Sunday 24 January 2010
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."
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the match: Ferguson
Match rating: 8/10
Latest in Sport
Frank Lampard equalises for Manchester City against Chelsea: how Twitter reacted
All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
Manchester City vs Chelsea match report: Frank Lampard shows no joy after denying Chelsea victory
Leicester City 5 Manchester United 3 player ratings: Leonard Ulloa? Radamel Falcao? Jamie Vardy? Angel Di Maria? Who was the star man?
Leicester City vs Manchester United match report: Jamie Vardy runs lopsided United ragged in amazing comeback
- 1 All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': TV reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Alicia Keys leaks nude photo 'to create a kinder and more peaceful world'
- 5 Clothes store Joy angers mental health campaigners with Twitter exchange on bipolar disorders
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'